Jim Flory lives at the western edge of Lawrence, and spends a bit of time driving on the South Lawrence Trafficway and U.S. Highway 40.
But the Douglas County commissioner considers himself fortunate that he doesn’t often need to negotiate the actual intersection of the two highways, especially when commuters converge there in the late afternoon and early evening.
“I’ve seen times when there’s 15 or 20 cars waiting to make a left turn onto 40 Highway,” said Flory, whose 3rd District includes the interchange and much of the surrounding area. “It really does back up.”
But the situation Flory describes as “frustrating” and others see as potentially dangerous — fellow Commissioner Mike Gaughan recently suggested posting sheriff’s deputies at the interchange to help direct traffic — remains stuck.
Law-enforcement agencies don’t have excess resources to steer into traffic control.
The interchange itself couldn’t even accommodate the installation of traffic signals, at least not until turn lanes and other construction could occur first.
Not that the state has any money to do so, anyway.
“There is no funding to take too many things too much further,” said Kim Qualls, a KDOT spokeswoman.
So state officials are doing what they can to keep traffic concerns from increasing.
KDOT is preparing to hire a consultant to compile an interchange management plan at the site. The study — to be financed by $67,000 from the state, plus $11,000 each from the city of Lawrence, Douglas County and the Lawrence-Douglas County Metropolitan Planning Organization — will be the first in the state to determine where and how traffic should be allowed to connect with U.S. Highway 40 in the area between East 800 Road to the west and George Williams Way to the east.
KDOT agreed to pursue the study because of what the future could bring to the interchange: large expanses of commercial development, which would be sure to drive increased traffic into the area and stretch the efficiency of existing roads and highways.
The goal: Avoid the problems that exist on stretches of Sixth and 23rd streets in Lawrence, where numerous driveways lead to congestion and other problems, said Mike Moriarty, KDOT’s corridor management administrator.
“We want to be a little more mindful of where future access points are on the western section,” he said. “Good transportation is good for business. That’s really what we’re trying to promote as part of this plan.”
The plan could call for widening U.S. 40 west of the trafficway, he said. Signals also could be planned for the interchange itself, along with necessary turn lanes and other changes.
Such changes, of course, would require money — money the state doesn’t have right now. The goal is to have the plan completed by the end of 2010.
Flory, for one, isn’t expecting major improvements soon.
“I don’t know of any inexpensive short-term resolution,” he said. “I just hope they’re looking at some good options that can help us down the road.”