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Construction coming to two stretches of Iowa Street

November 4, 2011

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Rebuilding a busy stretch of Iowa Street and expanding two of its major intersections in the coming years will cost millions of dollars and cause plenty of traffic delays, officials acknowledge.

But they’re looking forward to the payoff down the road.

“Things will move better,” said Chuck Soules, the city’s director of public works.

Two projects — one announced Friday, and another to have its schedule determined next week — will be expected to affect travel for more than 60,000 vehicles per day, both by causing delays during construction but easing flow once it’s done.

The projects:

• Adding various turn lanes at the intersection of Iowa and 15th Street/Bob Billings Parkway, part of a larger $6 million reconstruction of Iowa from Harvard Road to the Irving Hill Road overpass scheduled for 2013. Tuesday night, Lawrence city commissioners will discuss a recommendation to close 15th Street/Bob Billings at Iowa Street for the summer of 2013, for reconstruction.

• Adding additional left-turn lanes along 23rd Street and Clinton Parkway at Iowa, a project that would expand the intersection — already the busiest in town, with about 60,000 vehicles per day — to provide dual left-turn lanes in all directions. The Kansas Department of Transportation announced Friday that it would invest $500,000 in the estimated $1.5 million project, expected for construction in 2013 or 2014.

Both projects will be expected to do more than ease traffic flow, as engineers envision changes to reduce the frequency of accidents at several trouble spots.

Widening Iowa Street from Yale to Irving Hill, for example, will add a center turn lane north of 15th — virtually eliminating rear-end accidents now considered commonplace involving vehicles waiting to turn left onto University Drive and Stratford Road, said David Woosley, the city’s traffic engineer.

“That should make a big difference,” he said.

And the project on 23rd Street will reconfigure the free-flowing right turn for westbound traffic turning north on Iowa, at the corner that is home to Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers. The goal will be to eliminate the ongoing conflicts caused by traffic merging along Iowa, in which cars accelerating to go north mix in with vehicles slowing down to enter the shopping center.

“We had 26 crashes there in a two-year period,” Woosley said, confident that that the project’s final design would address the problem. “If there’s any traffic coming, you will have to stop. It will be a much sharper turn. (Even if there’s no traffic approaching on Iowa), you will have to slow down, almost to the point of stopping.”

Both projects also promise to spur plenty of short-term inconvenience.

For much of 2013, traffic will be down to one lane in each direction along Iowa, from Harvard to the overpass. Tuesday night, commissioners have two choices for handling the intersection at 15th/Bob Billings:

• Close 15th and Bob Billings at Iowa, forcing traffic onto detours but limiting reconstruction to the period between the close of Kansas University’s spring semester and opening of the fall semester. Traffic on Iowa would remain limited to one lane in each direction, but would not have to stop at the intersection.

• Keep the intersection open, which would spur lengthy delays for traffic passing through the intersection and likely more than doubling the length of time to get that part of the job done — and likely at a higher cost, Soules said.

“It’s going to be a nightmare if we need to keep that area open, and construction needs to go through a portion of the school year,” he said.

The commission meeting is set for 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.

Comments

justanotherface 3 years, 1 month ago

Can anyone tell me when construction on the southbound bridge leading into downtown will be done? It's causing huge delays and is a pain in the @$$, going on way too long.

GUMnNUTS 3 years, 1 month ago

Next year, repairs were to extensive to be completed before winter.

Betty Bartholomew 3 years, 1 month ago

I'm happy to have about two years' notice that my route to work is going to be totally kerfluffled. :)

LadyJ 3 years, 1 month ago

Always thought they should have put a right hand turn lane at the southeast corner of the intersection of 19th and Iowa when they did that section. All the semi trucks use the right hand lane going north and if you get behind them at a red light there, you wait forever for them to get going enough so you can turn east on 19th.

Kylee Manahan 3 years, 1 month ago

Is there going to be any consideration for those of us living on Terrace Road? Trying to go north from Terrace Road is nearly impossible and trying to turn across Iowa onto Terrace road is a real "you know what"!

John Hamm 3 years, 1 month ago

Ah man get off the SLT. In it's current proposed location it's a waste of money good only for the developers who wanted it there.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 1 month ago

What's that got to do with any of the projects discussed above?

John Hamm 3 years, 1 month ago

"north of 15th — virtually eliminating rear-end accidents now considered commonplace" Brahahahahahahahahaha - dreamers!

Brian Chilcoat 3 years, 1 month ago

23rd and Clinton Parkway is the same road right? There are already double left turn lanes there. Are they saying that the west bound (south turn) lane of 23rd street will be expanded along with the east bound (north turn) lane? This is kind of confusing.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 3 years, 1 month ago

They are going to put roundabouts on all major intersections of Iowa. I knew this was coming soon.

conservative 3 years, 1 month ago

@kubabyj the consideration is that during construction you won't be able to turn across Iowa, but when they are finished you'll have your own turn lane and will no longer be causing traffic snarls and accidents as you try to turn left off of Iowa. @billchilcoat1 there are double turn lanes on Iowa, on 23rd/clinton parkway there is only 1 turn lane. The project will widen the intersection to allow the extra turn lanes.

TruthSayer 3 years, 1 month ago

 I guess when it comes to all the rear end collisions, why have they not posted "No Left Hand Turn" signs along that stretch of Iowa Street. It seems as though that would be a lot cheaper fix then the addition of a turn lane to for the convenience of the few idiots that won't take a different route to that particular neighborhood. 
 Secondly, why the heck do road improvements take as long as they do. Many times I have noticed construction areas totally devoid of workers for weeks on end. Then they appear for a few short days, generally with half the crew working and the other half standing around trying to look important. When handing out these contracts the city commission should put much shorter time frame requirements on these companies. The commissions lack of concern for the problems created for the general citizenry, costs us time and money while benefitting construction companies that want to "stack" multiple projects over the course of a year.
 Many people wonder about the oil lobbies and other special interest groups, but when was the last time there was intense scrutiny of the road repair and expansion industry? They sure seem to get a lot of contracts on a regular basis here in Lawrence (how many times has Iowa, 6th and 23rd streets been repaved in just the past decade?)

Coles_Law 3 years, 1 month ago

Sometimes the construction project needs time. For example, if the road is an asphalt overlay on concrete, a crew has to come in, pour the concrete section of the road (with all the necessary steps that entails), then wait before paving. Coming in the day after pouring the concrete with paving equipment would destroy the concrete-it takes days or weeks for the concrete to be strong enough to support construction equipment.

TruthSayer 3 years, 1 month ago

Understandable, but vacating the site for weeks at a time while just in the grading and prep phase has nothing to do with concrete curing. I have witnessed this type of "site vacancy" more than once over the years. Because stringent time frames are not in place, companies will start several projects at the same time and then "bounce" employees between them. Although this works well for a business to have several contracts running at once, I feel it also keeps them from hiring additional employees in order to complete projects in a more timely fashion. In the mean time, the general populace wastes time and money in addition to increasing the output of greenhouse gasses while crawling through construction zones that last for months and in the case of the North Lawrence debacle, years!!!

Kylee Manahan 3 years, 1 month ago

TruthSayer, there are 11 houses full of "idiots" that live on the "DEAD END" road just 1/2 block north of 15th on the west side of Iowa, please give me a suggestion of a different route to take when I am coming home from south Iowa? Oh, I know, drive another mile to get to a point where I am now coming from the North?

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