West Lawrence motorists may want to begin planning their detour routes for this summer.
City officials said a portion of Wakarusa Drive will be completely shut down to traffic during a multi-month project to rebuild a key section of the road.
City Engineer Shoeb Uddin said plans call for Wakarusa Drive to be closed to all traffic for several hundred feet both north and south of the Bob Billings Parkway intersection.
“Traffic won’t be able to cross Bob Billings Parkway,” Uddin said.
Crews are expected to begin total reconstruction of Wakarusa Drive in either late July or early August. The $1 million project is expected to last two to three months. During that time, one of West Lawrence’s busier north-south corridors will be split into two sections.
Uddin said the city will post detours that allow motorists to navigate around the Bob Billings intersection. By keeping traffic out of the construction area — as opposed to keeping one lane of traffic open in each direction — the project is expected to be completed faster.
Bob Billings Parkway will remain open during the entire project, but motorists on Bob Billings Parkway won’t be able to turn onto Wakarusa.
Uddin said the project will be worth the temporary inconvenience.
“It is an important project because of the road’s condition,” Uddin said. “There is a lot of base failure on that road. It has a significant amount of traffic, and it is just not holding up.”
The project will involve replacing all of Wakarusa’s pavement about 500 feet north and south of Bob Billings Parkway.
The southern half of the project will stretch from Bob Billings Parkway to Brandon Woods Terrace. The northern half of the project will run from Bob Billings Parkway to about 200 feet north of the entrance to the Oread office park, which includes UMB Bank and several other offices.
In addition to new concrete pavement, the project will lengthen both the north and south-bound left turn lanes for the intersection.
One other part of the project that may catch some by surprise are bike lanes. The 1,000-foot stretch of Wakarusa will have two dedicated bike lanes, although the rest of Wakarusa doesn’t contain the lanes.
Uddin said the city’s long-term goal is for all of Wakarusa to have a dedicated bike lane running in each direction. But he said Wakarusa will be rebuilt in phases over a period of many years, so it is important to put the bike lanes in now rather than to try to do so all at once.
The bike lanes, he said, will cause the stretch of street to be widened by about six feet both to the east and the west. But Uddin said the city already has the existing right-of-way it needs, and will not need to purchase any additional property along the road.
Uddin also sought to reassure residents along Wakarusa Drive that this project will not be bringing the road any closer to their homes. The project is abutted only by commercial businesses.
There are several homes that are part of the Brandon Woods retirement complex that abut Wakarusa Drive, but Uddin said those homes will be just south of the project’s boundaries. Eventually that stretch of Wakarusa Drive may be widened to accommodate bike lanes, but he said the city does not currently have such a project on its long-range plan.
Jeff Merritt, CEO at Brandon Woods, said several residents of the complex had expressed concern the road widening would impact their properties, but he said he believed residents were becoming more comfortable as they learned more about the project.
Access to Brandon Woods Terrace also is expected to remain open throughout the project, Uddin said. Access to the various businesses near Bob Billings and Wakarusa also will be maintained throughout, although Uddin said several businesses that have access off of Wakarusa will have to take access off of Bob Billings.