Another year, another major reconstruction project on the Kansas Turnpike.
The last remaining stretch of original concrete on the turnpike — northeast of Lawrence, from mileposts 204.3 to 210.8 — is scheduled for replacement beginning in June.
The overhaul will be expected to last until November 2011, with traffic to be squeezed into one lane in each direction during construction.
Estimated cost of removing the 54-year-old concrete and replacing it with fresh asphalt: $23 million, to be financed by turnpike tolls past, present and future.
“It’s the one remaining section that has not been replaced,” said Michael Johnston, CEO of the Kansas Turnpike Authority. “Just go out and drive it, and you’ll see it’s not performing well. The longer we leave it, the worse it’ll perform.”
As recently as seven weeks ago, Johnston had said the project could be as far as 10 years away. Then, last week, members of the turnpike’s board of directors voted to start the project next summer.
Engineers already are busy working on designs, Johnston said, and contractors could be asked to bid on the job late this winter or early in spring. Nearly 30,000 vehicles pass through the area each day.
“The sooner we do it, the less risk we have of having major traffic problems,” Johnston said.
The turnpike already has been busy with other construction work in the area:
• A $130 million overhaul continues through the northern edge of Lawrence, to replace two bridges crossing the Kansas River and overhauling two interchanges. Exit 204, known as the East Lawrence interchange, is scheduled to close for eight months beginning this spring.
• From 2003 to 2007, a 13.4-mile section of the turnpike west of Lawrence — between the Lecompton and East Topeka interchanges — was widened from four to six lanes as part of a $54 million reconstruction job.
• From 1994 through 2000, the turnpike replaced 30.4 miles of pavement, generally between Topeka and the Bonner Springs exit in Wyandotte County — excluding the concrete to be replaced beginning next year.
The upcoming work essentially will extend traffic shifts already under way and anticipated as part of the bridge-replacement project at the edge of Lawrence. Traffic is scheduled to be switched onto the new bridge soon, perhaps by the end of this month, while the existing bridge that normally carries traffic heading east is prepared for removal and replacement.
Both projects — to replace bridges over the river, and to rebuild the turnpike farther to the east — are expected to be finished by the end of 2011.