Maybe it will be a race between yellow dandelions popping up in yards versus orange construction cones on city streets.
Either way, the early spring weather has construction crews poised to get started on a long list of street improvements.
“We have a lot of projects programmed for this year,” said Mark Thiel, the city’s assistant director of public works. “We’re calling it the summer of progress.”
But one of the larger projects of the year will get started well before the calendar flips to summer, and it will last longer than once envisioned. Work to replace the 23rd Street bridge between Haskell and Learnard avenues already is under way, but motorists will start noticing some traffic delays on 23rd Street in mid-April.
There will be “intermittent lane closures” in April while crews connect two shoo-fly detours to 23rd Street. The shoo-fly detours, basically two-lane ramps that run parallel to each side of the bridge, will be used to route traffic around the bridge during construction. The traffic delays expected in April will just be a warm-up for what motorists will experience in June.
Motorists will be directed onto the shoo-flies in June as dismantling of the bridge begins. The shoo-flies will accommodate two-lane traffic in each direction, but speeds likely will be about 30 mph, down from the standard 45 mph speed limit on 23rd Street.
“Most definitely, if you can find another route, that would be best,” said Kim Qualls, a spokeswoman with the Kansas Department of Transportation.
Qualls said the project now may last into December. Previously, KDOT leaders had speculated the project could be done by September, which would allow the project to largely be a nonfactor for crowds attending Kansas University football games and other sporting events.
But now that the construction contract has been let, Qualls said KDOT believes there is a chance the project could stretch toward the end of the year.
“Progress and fixing things do take some time,” Qualls said. “But the new bridge will look nice, and the most important thing is that it will improve safety.”
The new bridge will be significantly wider and also will include a new sidewalk that will be protected from traffic by a concrete barrier. In addition, the design of the bridge will include stamped and stained concrete that will mimic the look of stone. The current bridge dates to 1931.
If you don’t often travel on East 23rd Street, though, don’t worry: The city has a variety of projects spread throughout the city. Here’s a look at some of the larger ones:
• North Second and North Third Streets from Lincoln to the north city limits will get major patching work and a microsurface sealing. Motorists will begin noticing that work in mid-April. As part of the project, new landscaping will be added to the medians near the Kansas Turnpike entrance, and video cameras will be added to the traffic signal at the Kansas Turnpike entrance to improve traffic flow.
• Sixth Street from Monterey Way to Iowa Street will get a complete repaving. The project is expected to begin in May, likely after Kansas University dismisses for the summer. The project should be done in August, depending on weather. City engineers are currently completing the final details of the project, but Thiel said the city hopes to add right-turn lanes at the Sixth and Kasold intersection, and also some bus turnout lanes along Sixth Street.
• The portion of Wakarusa Drive from Research Parkway to Oread West — in other words, right at the Wakarusa and Bob Billings intersection — will be rebuilt. Work is expected to begin in June and be completed in August. Crews also will be in the area to repave Bob Billings Parkway from Wakarusa to Legends drives.
• Kentucky Street from 12th to 19th Street will be repaved during the early part of the summer. An exact date hasn’t yet been set, but work will take place at some point between April and July, city officials have estimated.
• Several neighborhoods also will receive repaving or repair work. The Pinckney neighborhood area north of Sixth Street between the Kansas River and McDonald Drive will have several streets that will be milled and repaved. The area west of Kasold, east of Wakarusa, north of Bob Billings and south of Sixth Street will have streets that receive a microsurface paving, a thin coating designed to seal cracking in the streets. The area immediately northeast of 15th and Haskell is slated for residential paving, as well as the Breezedale area immediately south of 23rd and Massachusetts streets.
Iowa work delayed
But one project that won’t get started this summer is a major rebuilding of Iowa Street near 15th Street. City officials had once considered starting work on that multimillion project this year, but that is now on next summer’s list.
That has caused some to ask Thiel, if this summer is called the “summer of progress” what will next summer be called once that massive project gets under way?
Thiel said that answer was easy.
“The summer of even more progress,” he said.