North Lawrence intersection to open – briefly – as St. Pat’s Parade detours nearby

Barricades to be moved for St. Patrick's Day celebration

The trio escorting the Irish flag at the head of the 2009 St. Patrick’s Day Parade crosses the intersection of Seventh and Massachusetts streets Tuesday in downtown Lawrence.

Traffic crossing the Kansas River into North Lawrence will be able to go ahead and drive into the construction zone that is the intersection of North Second and Locust streets.

That’s for about 90 minutes, anyway, to accommodate a moving celebration later this month.

“We can’t stop the St. Patrick’s Day Parade,” said Chuck Soules, the city’s director of public works. “The parade needs to get through, and we don’t want to be an impediment to the fun and festivities.

“We’ll remove the barricades. We’ll adjust, so everybody can get through.”

The temporary change to the traffic pattern will come March 17, as the parade that starts at 1 p.m. in South Park eases its way down Massachusetts Street and onto the Kansas River bridge.

While the 23rd annual parade’s more than 100 entrants — led by a Civil Air Patrol color guard and followed by tow trucks and pooper scoopers — occupy the eastern lane, crews will be posted to remove barricades that have been in place at the intersection since July 30.

While the parade will be steered east onto Elm Street — into a detour that leads to Locust Street and on to the familiar stopping point at The Flamingo Club — regular traffic will be allowed to venture ahead on fresh concrete, up until Locust.

From there, drivers will be steered back to the east and onto the rest of the detour brought on by the $2.5 million intersection-reconstruction project, one that remains months behind schedule.

Organizers ask that spectators in North Lawrence be sensitive when parking and observing in residential areas. As many as 1,000 people have gathered at the intersection during previous parades, but that area will not be as favorable this year because of the detour.

“We’re just asking everybody to be safe, due to the construction, when they’re crossing in that area,” said Mik Shanks, the parade committee’s co-chairman for logistics. “Our hope is that they’ll move east on Locust, to where they can gather where there’s more room.”

In North Lawrence, the parade will go from North Second to Elm to North Fourth and to Locust before reaching North Ninth, then turning south toward the Flamingo.

Next year’s parade route should return to normal, as the intersection project is slated for completion in August. But first things first: Crews have been working to get concrete in place in time to restore two-way traffic by early April, and still have plenty more to do.

“We’ll wave Irish flags as we go by, and wish them good luck,” Shanks said.