The Kansas Department of Transportation wants to install traffic signals at the South Lawrence Trafficway and U.S. Highway 40.
The department needs to install traffic signals at the intersection, judging by a traffic study conducted earlier this year.
But it can’t — at least not yet.
“At this point in time we are aware of what we can do there — what needs to be done — however, there is no funding at this point to do a project there,” said Kim Qualls, a KDOT spokeswoman. “So we’re just kind of on hold.”
The signal project isn’t the only job idling in the Docking State Office Building.
KDOT leaders in Topeka already have put off accepting bids for an estimated $28.8 million interchange for Kansas Highway 7 at Johnson Drive/55th Street in Shawnee, blaming a financing squeeze. That’s because KDOT isn’t sure how much money it will get — if any — from the federal government once the federal fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
The project envisioned for the trafficway at Sixth Street isn’t even close to being as far along, but KDOT officials are convinced upgrades will be needed:
• Dedicated turn lanes on each exit ramp, for traffic turning left and right.
• Traffic signals on both sides of the U.S. Highway 40 bridge that crosses the trafficway, particularly to handle traffic heading onto U.S. 40 from both directions.
• Other “geometric” improvements as necessary. “It’s not just a matter of installing signals,” Qualls said.
Chuck Soules, director of public works for the city of Lawrence, didn’t need to see study results to be convinced that signals would be needed. Signals already have been installed to the east along Sixth Street: at Congressional Drive, near Walmart; and at Stoneridge Drive, activated a month ago.
Others are planned at Queens Road and at George Williams Way.
“We’re trying to build improvements to meet future needs and demands,” Soules said, listing off a series of nearby residential and commercial developments — including Mercato, Oregon Trail, the Links, Diamondhead and Aberdeen — that will be expected to add plenty of vehicles to an already busy stretch of road.
Such developments will be expected to add traffic to the intersection, where cars already back up during the evening rush hour as Lawrence residents return home from Topeka using the Kansas Turnpike, whose Lecompton interchange empties onto the trafficway and funnels vehicles back into town.
“It backs down that exit ramp, and the concern is: If it ends up backing onto K-10, you’ve got 65, 70 miles-per-hour traffic coming up to people who are stopped, waiting to get off,” Soules said. “It’s a potential safety issue.”
KDOT hasn’t attached any cost estimates to the anticipated interchange work, Qualls said. Officials want to learn how much money they can expect from the federal government before starting to set priorities for spending it.
“It’s definitely going to be needed there,” Qualls said. “It’s going to be a matter of funding, essentially.”