Commuters between Lawrence and Kansas City have less than two weeks to relish the open highway that is Interstate 70.
Kansas Turnpike Authority has tentatively set March 14 as the day it will begin construction on a three-mile section of I-70 just east of Lawrence.
The work, which will require the interstate to be narrowed to one lane in each direction, is part of a $23 million project funded by KTA to replace six miles of 50-year-old concrete road. The new road will have a 10-inch rock base and 18 inches of asphalt.
Commuters likely haven’t forgotten when crews worked on the project last summer. That road closure, which squeezed four lanes down to two, resulted in major traffic headaches, especially during the summer weekends and at rush hour on Friday afternoons.
“We think there are a number of things that will make the project a little less painful,” KTA spokeswoman Lisa Callahan said of this year’s construction. “But there is no question there will probably be traffic delays during high-traffic periods.”
In particular, Callahan said traffic could become backed up when commuters mix with weekend travelers. But, she noted, drivers will be on new pavement, which she believes will make traffic flow better as they enter into the construction area.
The construction zone will run three miles east of the Lawrence service area, from mile marker 208 to mile marker 211. Construction is expected to last until November.
A single lane in both the eastbound and westbound side of the highway will stay open through the service area so vehicles can access the area.
East of the service area, both eastbound and westbound lanes will merge onto one side of the highway as crews work on the other. KTA hasn’t decided whether crews will work on the eastbound or westbound side first.
During the evening hours next week, lanes could be closed as KTA crews do work to the median to allow cars to merge to one side of the highway.