Soon after the travel-packed Memorial Day weekend draws to a close, the Kansas Turnpike will shutter half of its East Lawrence interchange.
The interchange at Exit 204, which connects to North Third Street near the I-70 Business Center in North Lawrence, will have its access and exit ramps for westbound traffic closed beginning at 7 a.m. Wednesday.
The ramps — all on the north side of the turnpike, for traffic coming into town from the Kansas City area and leaving Lawrence to head toward Topeka — are scheduled to be closed for two weeks. That’s so contractors can move dirt, add pavement and make other adjustments necessary to enable even larger projects:
• Moving all turnpike traffic onto a new Kansas River bridge, beginning around Thanksgiving. The bridge currently is being built along the north side of the existing bridges, and will have two lanes available for traffic in each direction as the turnpike’s existing bridges are removed and another new one goes up in their place.
• Rebuilding the East Lawrence interchange, requiring that all entrance and exit ramps in both directions be closed for about eight months beginning in spring 2010.
“We have to get ready for the future, but we have to do some work to the existing lanes” to handle traffic now, said Rex Fleming, project engineer for the turnpike. “We have to do both.”
The work is part of the turnpike’s $130 million overhaul at the edge of Lawrence. The West Lawrence interchange, or Exit 202, already has been rebuilt, and work continues on new bridges.
Crews led by Perry-based Hamm Cos. will be working 12-hour days to get the East Lawrence interchange open for all traffic once again, Fleming said.
“They want to get in and hit it hard,” Fleming said.
Scheduling the project to begin this week allowed crews to avoid disrupting Kansas University’s commencement or traditional Memorial Day travel. Summer classes start June 9 at KU.