Now we are getting down to the nitty-gritty of the South Lawrence Trafficway.
About 35 people showed up for a midday meeting at Lawrence City Hall on Friday to learn details about the SLT project that once were hard to contemplate: items like construction timelines, phasing and access control issues.
“I know there has been a lot of discussion about this project in the community over the years,” said Jonathan Marburger, project manager for the Kansas Department of Transportation. “But we are moving forward now. That is the message we are trying to get across today.”
Marburger said KDOT expects to have a contractor selected by September 2013, and some construction work could begin a few weeks thereafter. The project is expected to be finished no later than Fall 2016.
The first part of the construction project likely will be the most controversial. Marburger said laying down the significant amounts of fill material in the Baker Wetlands between Haskell Avenue and Louisiana Street will be among the first orders of business.
“That will probably be the most challenging part of the entire project,” Marburger said. “We have a lot of specialized requirements that will be in place for that area.”
Marburger said construction crews will be prohibited from doing the traditional “scarifying” of the land that is a usual first step in road construction. Instead, crews will trim the vegetation, lay down a “geosynthetic blanket” that will be covered with layers and layers of gravel.” Crews won’t be allowed to do any large scale de-watering of the wetlands.
“Basically, we will just be putting rock in there until we get out of the water,” Marburger said.
Construction crews also won’t be allowed to have their equipment in the general wetland area. The project is expected to directly damage about 50 acres of wetlands. Crews are expected to keep that area to a minimum by building the road about 300 feet at a time, and then using the newly built road to bring all construction equipment in and out of the area, Marburger said.
“It will be like they are building a land bridge,” Marburger said.
The wetland portion of the road did draw one brief protest during the meeting. An area resident told KDOT officials he wanted the state to “plan not to build the road” and said the highway would leave a “scar” on the community. But most in the crowd passed over the comments and continued to ask KDOT about construction details.
Among the details provided Friday:
• Work to relocate Haskell Avenue and Louisiana Street likely won’t begin until the summer of 2014. Louisiana, south of the existing 31st Street, will move about a half-mile to the west in order to move traffic farther from the Baker Wetlands. Haskell Avenue will move about 1,000 feet to the east. KDOT officials pledged that at no point will Haskell and Louisiana be closed at the same time during the construction process.
• When completed, the new Louisiana street will be a zigzagging road. Louisiana Street north of 31st Street will remain where it is today. At the current 31st and Louisiana intersection, Louisiana basically will dead end. Motorists wanting to continue south will have to take 31st Street a half-mile to the west, then reconnect with the new Louisiana Street. The new Louisiana Street will head due south for about one mile, and will include a bridge over the South Lawrence Trafficway. Louisiana then turns back to the east for a half-mile, where it will tie into the existing bridge that crosses the Wakarusa River.
• The new Haskell Avenue will cut through the middle of the Horizon Industrial Park at the southeast corner of the existing 31st and Haskell. At the moment, KDOT officials believe only one building — the RSC Equipment Rental business right at the corner — will have to be relocated. Haskell will begin shifting to the east as it intersects with 29th Street. The existing Haskell roadway between 31st Street and 29th Street will remain in place to serve as a frontage road for the industrial property that is on the west side of Haskell.
Haskell Avenue will have an interchange that allows access onto the SLT. Louisiana Street will not have any access to the trafficway.
• The eastern terminus for the SLT will be near Noria Road. The eastern interchange will be a full freeway-style interchange that will not require any traffic lights. The interchanges at Haskell Avenue and at Iowa Street both will be more traditional city style interchanges that will have traffic lights.
• Noria Road no longer will have direct access to either 23rd Street or to Kansas Highway 10. Motorists wanting to access Noria road from 23rd Street either will need to take O’Connell Road to the south or drive through the East Hills Business Park to access Noria Road to the north.
• The portion of 31st Street between Haskell and Louisiana will be entirely removed and converted back to wetlands. A new four-lane city street will be built by KDOT that is just north of the SLT. KDOT will pay to build the road to a point just past Haskell Avenue. The city, as part of the SLT project, will pay to have the road extended to O’Connell Road.
• Large scale excavation of dirt is likely to happen somewhere east of Lawrence. KDOT engineers estimate about 3.9 million cubic yards of dirt and material will be needed for embankments and other parts of the road. The majority of the dirt will come from outside of the construction site.
“You might see some new lakes or ponds created in the area,” Marburger said. “But I’m sure the contractors will be out talking to land owners about potentially buying dirt.”