Kansas Turnpike officials are hoping for fair weather next week, when they are scheduled to close the northern side of the East Lawrence interchange for two weeks.
Beginning early May 27, the turnpike plans to close the on- and off-ramps for westbound traffic at Exit 204, the interchange across North Third Street from the I-70 Business Center in North Lawrence. Ramps for eastbound traffic will remain open.
The temporary closure will allow crews to prepare the interchange for this fall, when all turnpike traffic will be routed onto a new Kansas River bridge.
The entire interchange is scheduled to close for eight months for reconstruction, beginning next spring.
Bright sun. Blue sky. Temperatures rising into the 70s.
And no playing hooky for the folks at United Contractors.
Instead, Mother Nature’s kindness paid off Monday with 12-hour shifts for the workers tasked with hauling, pumping and spreading 3 million pounds of concrete above the bank of the Kansas River at the northern edge of Lawrence.
“It’s a great day to pour concrete,” said Rex Fleming, project engineer for the Kansas Turnpike. “If it gets too warm, the concrete sets up too fast. The hot weather is not too good for pouring concrete.”
So Fleming and the United crews were taking advantage of fair conditions they know won’t last.
When concrete is a major component of the construction job — itself only a portion of a larger, $130 million contract with the turnpike to replace several bridges, rebuild interchanges and make other changes — such details are considered key.
Penny’s Concrete brought in the first of an expected 80 trucks soon at 6 a.m., and the sun-bathed work was on. United workers spread out across what would become the bridge deck a 9-inch-thick layer of concrete designed to carry future traffic loads. In a few weeks, a 1.5-inch-thick layer of “high-density” concrete will be placed on top, then receive a textured finish to help tires grip the road.
That layer and others likely will be poured at night, as warmer temperatures are expected throughout the summer, Fleming said. The bridge is due to be finished sometime this fall so that it can be set up to accommodate all turnpike traffic — two lanes in each direction — as contractors dismantle the turnpike’s existing two bridges over the river, then add another new one.
The entire turnpike project is scheduled to be finished by the end of 2011.