Unexpected, underground discoveries are pushing back completion dates and adding to the cost of rebuilding the intersection of North Second and Locust streets in North Lawrence.
Mother Nature’s extended cold snap isn’t helping, either. A detour that was expected to be lifted more than six weeks ago now is scheduled to redirect traffic for 11 more.
“We’re discouraged by it, the same as the public,” said Mark Thiel, the city’s assistant director of public works. “Unfortunately, as with any project, there is the possibility of encountering unexpected site conditions, and we’ve had some out there. They’re just totally unavoidable circumstances.”
And immovable. Late last year, crews from project contractor R.D. Johnson unearthed a massive concrete drainage structure, likely built in the 1930s as part of the Union Pacific overpass, that engineers determined should not be relocated or removed.
That meant redesigning the work to rebuild the road itself, from Locust north to the overpass. The change will add about $150,000 to the overall $2.5 million project cost, with the money to come from the federal government through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Such stimulus money, of course, won’t buy back lost time. Two-way traffic will be expected to return March 26 to North Second Street, officials say, while all lanes should reopen by June 30, and the entire project should be finished by Aug. 26.
“We absolutely want to make sure the project’s done right,” said Chuck Soules, the city’s director of public works. “We want to make sure that when we get this project done, it’s there for another 70 (or) 80 years.”
Ted Boyle, president of the North Lawrence Improvement Association, said neighborhood residents were looking forward to the project’s new turn lanes and improved drainage systems, in addition to a new waterline already installed underground.
But the detour that’s been in place since July 30 remains frustrating, especially because it originally was to be removed by Thanksgiving.
“You can either grin about it or you can cry about it,” said Boyle, who’s lived north of the Kansas River for more than 50 years. “It’s a lot more fun to grin about it and laugh about it.”