Major construction in the area of Iowa and 15th streets is bound to cause significant inconvenience next year, but Lawrence city commissioners were right to affirm an earlier decision to close the intersection to east-west traffic during the project.
After hearing some concerns from businesses and residents in the area, commissioners agreed last week to move forward with plans to close 15th Street/Bob Billings Parkway for several hundred feet on either side of Iowa Street during construction. At least one lane of northbound and southbound traffic will continue to be open throughout the project, but no turns will be allowed at the intersection.
Trying to keep the intersection fully open would have delayed the start of the project by about four months and slowed overall construction, meaning the project would take longer and almost certainly stretch into next winter.
We hope businesses won’t suffer significantly because of the closure, but the most important thing is to get this project started at the beginning of the construction season and completed as quickly as possible. Construction is scheduled to begin on May 20 and be completed no later than Aug. 16, but commissioners directed the city manager to offer the contractors an appropriate financial incentive, perhaps as much as $100,000, to complete the project by Aug. 1, when many Kansas University students begin returning to Lawrence.
Summer is prime time for major construction projects across the nation, but it is especially important in Lawrence to complete such projects during KU’s slow season. That’s even more key when the project involves a major entrance to the KU campus like the one at 15th and Iowa streets.
As we said, this project will be a major inconvenience for local drivers, but the center left-turn lane it will add north of 15th Street will be a major improvement for safety and traffic flow in that area.