Closing an interchange in North Lawrence may be a “business decision” for the Kansas Turnpike, but it’s a decision that will be certain to affect a much smaller business run by Brett Sullivan.
Sullivan figures he’ll lose 10 to 15 percent of his sales at the Presto convenience store at 1030 N. Third St. — one of four such stores in Lawrence and 10 overall that he supervises — once the so-called East Lawrence interchange around the corner closes April 5.
The expected drop in revenues and traffic will come on top of the 25 percent he’s already missed out on since August, when contractors for the city of Lawrence started rebuilding the nearby intersection of North Second and Locust streets — a project that’s expected to continue detouring area traffic through the end of next month and to continue with less-disruptive work into August.
“Hopefully, when it’s all said and done, it’ll be worth it,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan joined several dozen business owners, employees and others who attended informational meetings Thursday in North Lawrence, where turnpike officials explained their plans and offered information about what to expect during the coming seven months and beyond.
Bottom line: Rebuilding the interchange is an “integral part” of an ongoing $130 million overhaul of the turnpike as it passes through Lawrence, including the replacement of Kansas River bridges, said Michael Johnston, the turnpike’s president and CEO.
The interchange, which is Exit 204, will be rebuilt from the ground up. Two lanes will be added to handle more traffic, and new ramps will be built to improve traffic flow in conjunction with the new river bridges.
Keeping the interchange open during reconstruction was considered, Johnston said, but that would have extended the project by a year — adding to project costs and driver disruptions.
“I think businesspeople understand the kind of choices that we have to make because, at the end of the day, it’s a business decision for us as well,” Johnston said. “I think the businesspeople understand that better than anybody.”
One more business decision: Hamm Inc., the project’s general contractor, has until Nov. 1 to get the interchange back open or else face fines of $10,000 a day.