Douglas County officials are putting the brakes on plans for rebuilding a busy stretch of the Farmers Turnpike northwest of Lawrence, hoping to grab a slice of whatever “economic recovery” plan emerges from lawmakers in Washington.
County officials have canceled a Feb. 10 meeting that had been scheduled for accepting bids from contractors wanting to land the estimated $2.6 million job. The project calls for rebuilding a 2.3-mile stretch of the Farmers Turnpike, from the South Lawrence Trafficway west to County Road 1029, which heads north to Lecompton.
It’s not that the project isn’t needed, or that the county doesn’t have the money — although, given the current economic situation, spending priorities could change, said Keith Browning, county engineer and director of public works. The stretch still carries about 4,300 vehicles a day, ranking it among the busiest county-maintained roads.
But officials are awaiting a multibillion-dollar economic recovery plan that is making its way through Capitol Hill, a package that could pump millions of dollars into transportation projects in the state.
Some of that money could trickle down to Douglas County, and officials want to be in a position to soak it up.
“With this project, we’re ready,” Browning said. “We’ve got plans done. We’ve got utilities moved. We’ve got right-of-way acquired. We’re ready.
“It’s as ‘shovel ready’ as any project could be.”
Of course, the Kansas Department of Transportation has its own list of $1.36 billion in projects lined up for potential federal financing, including one that would be located in Douglas County: building a $10 million interchange at the trafficway and Bob Billings Parkway. Another would add two lanes to six miles of Kansas Highway 10, either in Douglas or Johnson County, for $100 million.
But the county’s project still could get a piece of the federal funds, at least as far as KDOT officials are concerned.
“They think the project itself is worthy of federal aid,” said Browning, who has met with KDOT representatives on the issue. “They’ve committed to sharing a portion of that economic recovery money with local governments, but they haven’t determined what that percentage is.”
Added Terese Gorman, the county’s engineering division manager: “We’ve got our foot in the door.”
The reconstruction project is designed to improve traffic safety and improve the road’s strength for handling rising levels of traffic, Browning said. The two-lane stretch would be rebuilt to resemble County Road 1029, which heads to Lecompton.
Paved shoulders would be added on each side, and the slopes leading down from the road’s sides would be made less steep, Browning said. The road’s hills also would be lowered and existing dips would be filled in to improve sight lines for drivers.
The county already has spent nearly $100,000 to acquire property — all of it along the north side of the road — needed to make way for the reconstruction.
Once under contract, Browning said, the project likely would take about eight months to complete.
“That would get us finished up by the time it starts getting cold in the fall,” he said.