Archive for Wednesday, March 18, 2009

New turnpike interchange, plans for its use both under construction

Tonganoxie exit should open by end of year

Leaders are hoping to bring new business to Leavenworth county by improving County Road 1.

March 18, 2009


The turnpike passes under County Road 1 north of Eudora as crews work to complete the new intersection.

The turnpike passes under County Road 1 north of Eudora as crews work to complete the new intersection.

A new six-mile stretch of Leavenworth County Road 1 remains on track for opening by the end of the year.

But the path of its future traffic, use and development remains to be mapped.

The project — a partnership of the county, Kansas Turnpike Authority, city of Tonganoxie, and Kansas Department of Transportation — will, for the first time, establish a turnpike interchange in Leavenworth County. It will be known as the Tonganoxie/Eudora interchange, exit 212.

The project also will improve the ride for drivers on County Road 1, by providing wider lanes, paved shoulders and a smoother profile.

The rebuilt road will go from U.S. Highway 24-40, about a half-mile south of Tonganoxie, to Kansas Highway 32 south of the turnpike.

“It’s not going to be up-and-down, up-and-down, rolly,” said Rex Fleming, project engineer for the turnpike authority. “It’ll be flatter … and safer.”

The project’s effects won’t end there.

With an interchange on the turnpike, drivers will have a more direct opportunity to head north to Tonganoxie. In December the city spent $1.4 million to acquire 240 acres of property at the southern edge of town for a future business park.

“We’re very excited about the prospects for new annexations, more development, a good mix of development from industrial to retail to residential,” said Mike Yanez, Tonganoxie city administrator. “We think we’ll have an attractive site for industry. … We think, with 240 acres, we ought to be able to land some big boys.”

To the south, drivers also will have a clear route to Eudora. County Road 1 — which becomes Douglas County Road 1061 south of the county line — no longer will be left to carry 1,000 or so vehicles a day, as it did before its closure for reconstruction.

Under the new design, the road will be expected to be able to handle 2,000 vehicles a day comfortably.

Just who ends up on the road, of course, remains a bit of a concern.

Signs for trucks

In Eudora, officials are working on a plan to accommodate an influx of trucks that could be looking for a more direct route to Kansas Highway 10.

The likely plan is to install directional signs at the northern edge of town, steering drivers of tractor trailers to head east to Church Street, then south to whatever highway they want to connect with, Mayor Tom Pyle said.

Regular cars and small trucks, of course, will be more than welcome to continue into downtown Eudora on County Road 1061 — which is Main Street, fresh off a four-block revitalization that includes new pavement, sidewalks, streetlights and even benches.

“We don’t have anything against truckers. We just don’t want them tearing up what we just finished,” said Pyle, owner of Pyle Meat Co., which sits at the corner of Eighth and Main. “We’re looking for a lot of passenger cars, for sure. I think it’ll be a good thing for Eudora. Once people get into town, they’ll stop and look around and buy some beef jerky or something. We’re planning on it.”

What happens next is anybody’s guess, he said.

Discussions continue for establishing a massive intermodal distribution hub in Gardner, and redevelopment always seems to be in play at the former Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant near De Soto. So far, at least, Pyle hasn’t heard any concrete plans for building new connections, upgrading old ones or otherwise capitalizing on the regional aspects of the new turnpike interchange to the north and the budding development projects to the south.

But the turnpike interchange should help keep Eudora on the map for future growth.

‘A pretty good spot’

“All that will be a great employment draw for this whole area,” Pyle said. “We’re happy about it. We’re sitting in a pretty good spot right here — I knew that when we moved here 58 years ago.”

The interchange will include some of the turnpike’s most advanced technology. New toll booths already are being installed at each of the four ramps, and all will be managed by on-site machines.

The machines — known as ATPMs, for Automatic Toll Payment Machines — will read drivers’ turnpike tickets, then inform them how much they owe. Drivers then pay by inserting bills, coins or credit cards.

Anyone with a problem would be able to communicate with a real toll attendant off-site, using a push-button to connect via video and audio.

Crews from Perry-based Hamm Cos. Inc. continue to press on with construction work on County Road 1. Crews are busy installing the last of 11 box culverts that will run underneath the rebuilt road, to handle drainage. A bridge also is going in over Nine Mile Creek, south of the turnpike.

Fleming, the turnpike’s project engineer, figures that the project is a bit behind on contractual payments but still right on track for its scheduled completion. The turnpike authority is spending $7.3 million for the interchange, plus another $2 million for County Road 1 — the portion of the project that is getting about $9 million from Leavenworth County, $1.5 million from the city of Tonganoxie, about $900,000 from KDOT and another $490,000 from a federal earmark.

Both segments of the project are set for completion by Jan. 1, Fleming said — maybe earlier.

“We’ll still make it by this fall,” he said. “It’ll open by the end of the year.”


Bobo Fleming 9 years, 3 months ago

Any idiot that actually drove south on Church Street in Eudora would know that there is parking allowed on the west side of the street making it narrow going for approaching vehicles. When the trucks start down that road there are going to be a lot of problems. Also there is two over 100 year old churchs down that route and those building are going to get a lot of stress from those trucks.

fatheadff 9 years, 3 months ago

HMMMMMM..... Another business park on the south end of town. Well i guess it will match the one on the northeast side. A few buildings,some empty, and alot of open ground for new buildings. Mike you are one smart man. Lets buy more land and let it sit. Better yet why don't you go back to Eudora instead of bringing it's officials here to work.

angelmom 9 years, 3 months ago

I, for one can't wait to see what happens when the train is stopped across the road, blocking all traffic going either direction. Who were the idiots who didn't take that into consideration? It's nothing to sit there for 30 minutes before the train moves out of the way. Good luck with that Mr. Pyle and Mr. Yanez.

idara 9 years, 3 months ago

I live on Church Street, and I figure they'll probably ban street parking like they did while they were making their mess downtown, only this time it will be permanent. I only moved to Eudora because it was a quiet town and now I'm going to be on the truck route. Great planning, Mr. Pyle. I guess since you live on a dead end street, you'll never have to suffer like the rest of us who didn't want your project and all these pointless changes. "Improving" Main Street is not going to sell more jerky. People are just going to pass through Eudora on their way to somewhere else.

countrygirl 9 years, 3 months ago

Those 100 year old churches haven't been used as churches in several years. They were sold and are now private residences. Anybody know when you can actually get to Tongie via county road 1? Seems like that bridge over the turnpike has been closed for ages.

Joe Hyde 9 years, 3 months ago

A permanent surge in heavy truck traffic (commercial tractor-trailer rigs) moving north/south through Eudora would have a very bad impact on that town's public safety profile and overall quality of life.

Looking at the town from the view of an over-the-road trucker, Eudora totally lacks the conveniences required to encourage thru truck drivers to stop for fuel and food. There simply aren't any parking spaces big enough and open enough to support north/south thru traffic by tractor-trailer rigs.

Taking these shortcomings even further, Douglas County Road 1061 (which connects Eudora to US-56 Highway at a point east of Baldwin City) is likewise not suited for enduring the kind of relentless roadway pounding typical of heavy truck traffic.

Since the I-70 Tonganoxie Exit will soon be a reality regardless, I submit the only practical solution is to install a sign for southbound traffic at the intersection of K-32 Highway and Leavenworth County Road 1. Said sign worded to read: "Southbound tractor-trailer traffic through Eudora is prohibited. Take alternate route."

(Or words to this effect.)

And at the intersection of US-56 Highway and Douglas County Road 1061, a similar sign reading: "Northbound tractor-trailer traffic through Eudora is prohibited."

This prohibition and signage would keep undesireable heavy truck traffic away from Eudora while allowing into downtown Eudora the highly desired north/south passenger vehicle traffic which (as is hoped) will encourage commercial growth.

Bobo Fleming 9 years, 3 months ago

To Country girl- there are two churchs in use on Church Street. St Pauls United Church of Christ and the original Holy Family Catholic Church constructed in 1864. This Church is still being used for Mass on Saturdays. It has survived a lot of things but might not survive Mayor Pyle who ironically is a member. Part of the reasoning according to the Mayor for not going down Main Street is because the truck traffic would cause vibrations that would be hard on buildings along the street. I think the same thing will happen to the church buildings on Church Street.

countrygirl 9 years, 3 months ago

Holy Family Catholic Church---820 Birch--Is the old church building still being used for anything? I did forget about St.Paul's--sorry about that.

Point is though, church's sit on truck routes all over the country. Cities grow and change and what didn't used to be a busy street may be that way now. Maybe a by-pass around Eudora would be better?

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