KDOT maps its vision for South Lawrence Trafficway westside interchange

A large crowd Monday evening got a glimpse at what city leaders are predicting will be a new gateway to Lawrence by late 2015.

Engineers with the Kansas Department of Transportation unveiled the most detailed plans yet for a $17 million interchange at Bob Billings Parkway and the South Lawrence Trafficway in west Lawrence.

“There is going to be a big safety improvement out here,” said Kris Norton, road design leader with the Kansas Department of Transportation, who was a presenter at the open house at Langston Hughes School.

Plans for the interchange, which will be built where Bob Billings Parkway dead-ends with the trafficway, include:

• A six-lane bridge over the trafficway that will have four standard lanes and two left-turn lanes.

• A design that will accommodate traffic signals on both ends of the bridge, allowing motorists to have a signal to turn onto the entrance ramps to the SLT. The traffic lights won’t immediately be part of the bridge but will be added as traffic volumes grow.

• Bike lanes, sidewalks and pedestrian-friendly railings on both sides of the bridge.

• A rerouting of the existing SLT bike path that will include a plan to take the path underneath a rebuilt Bob Billings Parkway. Engineers said the new route will greatly reduce the chance of accidents involving motorists and bicyclists on Bob Billings Parkway.

• An extension of Bob Billings Parkway west of the South Lawrence Trafficway. Plans call for the new road to be paved for about the first half-mile, and would include bike lanes and sidewalks. The road would tie into the existing North 1500 Road, which will be just south of the interchange.

• A rebuilding and paving of North 1500 Road east of the SLT and west of George Williams Way. The road currently is a gravel road, but under the new plans, it will become a significant roadway for residents who live south of North 1500 Road. Currently there is an at-grade intersection with North 1500 Road and the trafficway. Once the interchange is built, the intersection will be closed. Residents who frequently use the current intersection will have to use the new road to access the interchange, sometimes having to drive a half-mile east before they can start heading back west toward the trafficway.

“It will be a lot of inconvenience,” said Van Grant, who uses the current intersection.

But the interchange is expected to add convenience to the many neighborhoods that have easy access to Bob Billings Parkway. Some neighbors have expressed concern about the amount of traffic that will come off the interchange — especially on Kansas University game days, since Bob Billings Parkway leads directly to campus. But Ken Grotewiel, who lives in the area, said he thought the benefits would outweigh the negatives.

“When we moved here, we knew there would be an interchange,” Grotewiel said. “I never thought it would be so soon, but if they are going to build, I’ll sure use it a lot.”

KDOT leaders expect to bid the project in March of 2014, and hope construction is completed by November 2015. State officials plan to begin negotiations later this year with about eight landowners to purchase the necessary right-of-way for the project. No homes are expected to be lost as a result of the project, Norton said.

KDOT has $15 million in state funding for the project. The state is asking the city and the county to provide $2 million of additional funding. It will be up to the city and county to decide how that $2 million should be split between the two governments.

Currently, the county is asking the city to pay a larger share of the project, while the city is proposing the costs be split equally.

City Manager David Corliss said negotiations will continue, and he expects the two governing bodies to reach a resolution before the end of the year.