Archive for Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Kansas Turnpike’s East Lawrence interchange to close two weeks later than planned to facilitate emergency services

Delay due to emergency concerns

Traffic backs up over the Kansas River bridge Tuesday evening from downtown into North Lawrence, as reconstruction continues at the intersection of North Second and Locust streets. Because the roadblocks are scheduled to remain until March 26, the Kansas Turnpike has agreed to wait until April 5 to close its East Lawrence interchange — a move to preserve another access for emergency vehicles into North Lawrence.

Traffic backs up over the Kansas River bridge Tuesday evening from downtown into North Lawrence, as reconstruction continues at the intersection of North Second and Locust streets. Because the roadblocks are scheduled to remain until March 26, the Kansas Turnpike has agreed to wait until April 5 to close its East Lawrence interchange — a move to preserve another access for emergency vehicles into North Lawrence.

January 26, 2010

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Turnpike project on backburner

A project to improve the turnpike in Lawrence is being delayed until crews can complete the North Second Street project. The North Lawrence area is currently with limited emergency access. Enlarge video

The Kansas Turnpike is putting off the planned closure of its East Lawrence interchange for another two weeks, part of a plan to improve chances of uninterrupted access for emergency services in North Lawrence.

The turnpike’s interchange — Exit 204, across North Third Street from the I-70 Business Center — now is scheduled to close April 5, two weeks later than the March 22 date that had been announced last week.

City officials requested the delay Tuesday morning, after realizing that they didn’t expect their own major construction job at North Second and Locust streets to restore two-way traffic on North Second until March 26.

City officials regarded such an overlap as unacceptable.

Without traffic able to head north using the Union Pacific underpass, emergency crews could be blocked from crossing the river to get into North Lawrence — either by an accident on the Kansas River bridge or the simple passing of a train through the neighborhood.

If the turnpike exit also were closed at the same time, emergency crews then could be limited in finding a way into North Lawrence.

“We understand the community’s interests,” said Rex Fleming, project engineer for the turnpike’s ongoing $130 million construction project at the northern edge of town, one expected to close the East Lawrence interchange for seven months for reconstruction. “We are going to push the limits of getting our interchange back open in time for winter, but we understand.”

The turnpike’s agreement to delay its own project doesn’t come without its own potential downside.

“I would hope that people would understand that if it doesn’t get done in time, it’s not our fault,” Fleming said.

City officials asked for the delay a few days after asking Fleming to consider another option: installing a temporary exit off the turnpike for emergency vehicles.

The temporary exit would be installed at East 1600 Road, about a mile east of North Seventh Street in North Lawrence and be available for use only by police cars, fire trucks, ambulances and other vehicles used by emergency services.

Chuck Soules, the city’s director of public works, said such an exit would be used only when all other avenues for service had been compromised:

• the East Lawrence interchange closed;

• the North Second and Locust intersection still closed to northbound traffic;

• the railroad tracks occupied by a train;

• the Kansas River bridge between downtown and North Lawrence blocked.

“We may or may not need it, but we’re prepared to get started on it if it’s deemed to be necessary,” Soules said.

Adding such a ramp likely would cost $40,000 to $50,000, Fleming said. And even then, he’s not sure it would work, given the already-disrupted traffic flow in the area because of replacement of the turnpike’s own Kansas River bridges and preparations for the interchange’s upcoming closure.

“If I can’t do it safely, that’s something we can’t do,” Fleming said.

So, for now, the city will need to make do with two more weeks to make progress on its own intersection. The extension improves the chances of opening a lane for northbound traffic at the underpass, Soules said.

That lane, of course, already had been expected to be open by now, and to have been handling traffic for the past two months. But bad weather and design changes have pushed the project back for months.

When the intersection project began, Lawrence city commissioners had agreed to spend about $28,000 on overtime wages for posting a crew from Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical in North Lawrence during peak traffic periods each weekday: two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening. That was the amount expected back in July, when the crews were expected to be needed until the end of November.

Now those crews are expected to be in place through March 26.

Comments

Michael Stanclift 5 years, 2 months ago

“I would hope that people would understand that if it doesn’t get done in time, it’s not our fault,” Fleming said.

Right, because you were going to finish on time to begin with, I'm sure.

Kathy Underwood 5 years, 2 months ago

As a commuter from Tonganoxie I have been terribly disappointed in what appears to be a real lack of good planning. In order to avoid the very rough railroad tracks and severe potholes in North Lawrence, I was leaving town on the road that intersects hwy. 24 at the Airport Motel. It's been closed for months now. Closing the East Lawrence turnpike plaza will cause further problems. If Lawrence wants people from out of town to shop in Lawrence, they'd better figure out how people are going to get here. Very poor planning!

Jack Hope III 5 years, 2 months ago

As a resident of North Lawrence, I don't care how long all of this takes as long as they get it right. I'm inconvenienced by all of this multiple times a day, but I'd rather deal with this than going through another 1993 and risk losing my house because of malfunctioning or undersized water pumps and pipes. The roads can rot until summer for all I care as long as the water gets pumped out when the Spring rains arrive.

errita 5 years, 2 months ago

I hope they get that mess in North Lawrence straightened out soon. I feel really bad for the people who have to deal with it on a daily basis. And as a former KTA employee goodbye old plaza 204! Very sad to see it go,lots of fun memories there!

vegetablegirl 5 years, 2 months ago

Classic unprofessional move! Shift the burden of blame before you even start. Rex-you should be ashamed of this quote.

esubrett 5 years, 2 months ago

Everyone is missing the simple solution. Detour the train tracks out north of town for now. Well as a North Lawrence resident, just go ahead and leave them out there when this is all completed. Who knows in the long run it may end up being cheaper.

Stuart Evans 5 years, 2 months ago

so many people only concerned with the immediate here and now. These projects are going to make coming into Lawrence a much more pleasant experience. Yes, it is all a major clustermess right now. But it is temporary, and 6-12 months is not the end of the world folks.
Was it not fully thought out? of course not. nobody plans anything perfectly. But you'll remember that the Locust intersection was in the can waiting for funding & timing, when ARRA appeared. At that time, the Turnpike project was already in full effect. It was a now or never situation.

Wayne Propst 5 years, 2 months ago

We note that there was no work being done on friday afternoons during the summer, we are paying now........

ferrislives 5 years, 2 months ago

"City officials requested the delay Tuesday morning, after realizing that they didn’t expect their own major construction job at North Second and Locust streets to restore two-way traffic on North Second until March 26."

Are you serious? I drive through North Lawrence construction almost every single day, and I haven't seen any road crews working on that area in several weeks now (including today). It's been pretty good weather for days since the snow finally went away, but nothing is being done. And then they wonder why it's not done on time? I guess that's what you come to expect from someone that says the potholes in Lawrence are getting better.

How about you get your crews out there, and get to work already! I'm so tired of this mismanagement when it comes to roads in this city. They should be fired, and new people who know how to plan properly and get things done on-time should be put in their place.

Stuart Evans 5 years, 2 months ago

ferris, did you happen to notice the amount of snow that was out there over the last two weeks? when that snow melted, it became water. water saturates the ground and makes mud. mud is all but impossible to put most of that equipment through. You cannot grade mud, and you certainly can't pour concrete on it without being graded. You'll be happy to hear that there were a lot of guys out there working when i drove through this morning. so calm down, let the experts build the road.

ferrislives 5 years, 2 months ago

AreUNorml, I drove by at 7:50am this morning, and noticed no one out there except for maybe 1 guy. And I don't think he was going to get anything done on his own. I understand that they needed to wait for the snow to melt, but there's other things that can be done while they're waiting for all of that. That project involves a lot of different work items, so get to it.

I personally always appreciate workers who work in almost all weather conditions, but the planning for this project has been unbelievable. Also, I did notice, as did others, several days of non-work when it was nice before the snow came along. I understand that things were found that they didn't expect, but seriously, do you even remember the original date two-lane traffic was supposed to be opened? Thanksgiving! This is just craziness.

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