Traffic once again is moving both north and south through the intersection of North Second and Locust streets, site of a $2.5 million reconstruction project that has detoured northbound traffic onto adjacent streets for more than eight months.
The two-way traffic — one lane in each direction — is traveling on a rebuilt section of road, one that begins just past North Second’s intersection with Elm Street and continues north under the Union Pacific railroad tracks.
Drivers began embracing the new traffic flow soon after lunch today. By 1:45 p.m., crews were working to get traffic signals up and running again.
Left turns remain prohibited at Locust, for traffic on North Second, and will remain so until more lanes are added later this year. But drivers heading into North Lawrence no longer will have to drive past Johnny’s Tavern to turn around and come back to Johnny’s.
Now customers simply can take the “Johnny’s detour”: Right on Elm Street, left on North Third Street, left on Locust and then straight across the new lanes and into the parking lot.
“That’ll be fine,” said Rick Renfro, owner of Johnny’s. “It’ll be fine and dandy.”
Construction work on the project started in late July, to add turn lanes, improve drainage and install a new waterline in the area. Work also would eliminate a large bump that had been in place since road repairs during the flood of 1993.
The project’s resulting detour — using Elm, North Third, Locust and Lyon streets — took effect July 30. Many of the streets along the route have been damaged extensively by the increased traffic, and city officials plan to start repairing potholes soon. More extensive repairs are expected later this spring or summer.
Crews still have plenty of work to do at the intersection itself. The entire project isn’t expected to be finished until August.
Renfro hasn’t exactly had it easy at his place at the northwest corner of the intersection: Early on, customers still found the tavern during football season, then racked up sales of plenty of “sympathy pizzas and burgers” in November and December.
But in January, his sales were down 30 percent compared with the same month a year earlier. In February, the tally had fallen 40 percent.
Now he’s bracing for another hit just up the road: The Kansas Turnpike’s closure of the East Lawrence interchange. That starts at 7 a.m. Monday, for what’s expected to be seven months of reconstruction.
Then again, Renfro said, things could be worse.
“It’s not near as bad as turning the (drinking) age limit from 18 to 21,” Renfro said. “That was the death blow. But I survived that, and I’ll survive this.”