Come Monday, orange cones and construction workers will return to a stretch of Interstate 70 just east of Lawrence.
And when they do, Kansas Turnpike officials said motorists should expect delays during heavy traffic times.
For the next eight months, crews will be rebuilding, from the earth up, a three-mile stretch of road that goes east from the Lawrence service area to mile marker 211. During that time, traffic will be narrowed to one lane in each direction.
The reconstruction, which is the last stretch of the turnpike that still has the original 1950s concrete road, is part of a $23 million project that began last summer. Four miles of highway just east of Lawrence have already been rebuilt.
Just as it did last year, traffic is expected to back up during busy Friday afternoons, said Michael Johnston, KTA president and CEO. To help avoid major traffic jams, Johnston said the turnpike plans to have wreckers and staff on scene when traffic is heaviest.
“Unfortunately last year, it seemed like we had accidents on Friday afternoon every week, which is the busy time,” Johnston said.
Figuring out the best way to route traffic through the construction zone was a challenge. The KTA wanted to make sure the service area, which is home to a McDonald’s and gasoline station, remained opened.
Traffic will be directed through the construction zone in three phases:
• Until mid-June, traffic through the service area will be funneled to the left lane in both directions. Once past the service area, the eastbound lane will cross over to the westbound lane where one lane of traffic will flow in each direction.
• Once construction is finished in the eastbound lane, crews will move to the westbound lane. At that time, the westbound traffic heading into the construction zone will cross over into the eastbound lane, where one lane of traffic will flow in each direction. Just before the service area, westbound traffic will go back into the westbound lane. Through the service area, both eastbound and westbound traffic will be restricted to the left lane. This phase of construction is expected to run from mid-June to September.
• Once crews have reconstructed both the eastbound and westbound lanes east of the service area, they will focus on sections of the road that had previously been left open so drivers could access the service area. During that time, all traffic through the service area will continue to be funneled through the right lane. This phase is expected to last from September until November.