Archive for Friday, June 28, 2013

Summer road construction a necessary evil for Lawrence drivers and businesses

June 28, 2013


The day after Lexie Clark got her Kansas University diploma in May, she received an unwelcome graduation gift: roadway construction everywhere.

Finishing out her lease in a house near the KU campus, Clark was excited to spend her last carefree summer in Lawrence. But the constant navigational battle she fights through detours and road obstructions from City of Lawrence and KU construction projects has left Clark ready to move away from her college home.

“The road closure on Bob Billings from Crestline to Engel has been ridiculous,” Clark said. “I have to go through parking lots and neighborhoods to get anywhere. It’s dangerous and irritating.”

It's summer in Lawrence, which means the city is rushing to get several major road construction projects done, to take advantage of the local population reduction caused by KU summer vacation. That's causing detours around torn-up roadways on major thoroughfares such as Iowa Street, Bob Billings Parkway, Wakarusa Drive and Jayhawk Boulevard.

And as annoying as the construction is for drivers such as Clark, it’s even more troubling for many local businesses along the affected routes.

Cornered by construction on Naismith Drive and Jayhawk Boulevard, as well as a reroofing job at Chi Omega sorority, Sara Wade, general manager of Jayhawk Bookstore at 1420 Crescent Rd., has had the sound of jackhammers ringing in her ears all summer.

Besides the noise, the construction is bad for business, Wade said. The renovations began the day after KU graduation, a time that coincides with prime book-buying season for summer classes.

“Our sales are definitely down because of it,” Wade said. “A lot of people are calling to see if we are open or for the best route to take to here.”

Compared to last summer, Jayhawk Bookstore’s sales are down about $5,000 so far, Wade said. Still, she takes the inconvenience in stride.

“It’s summer, so we are dealing with it,” Wade said. “If this was August, I would be like, ‘move!’”

Not all business owners are as resigned to the construction as Wade.

Since the City’s Kasold-to-Crestline project along Bob Billings Parkway began in May, all has been quiet on the western front of Lawrence in the Orchard Corners Shopping Center — aside from the shrill beeps and resounding booms of construction trucks.

K.J. Jalali, co-owner of University Liquor, stares longingly at the shopping plaza’s empty parking lot. The Bob Billings project has made accessing the shopping plaza at 1410 Kasold Drive a daunting task.

Running a liquor store in a college town, Jalali knows to expect a lull in sales after the spring semester, but with the added traffic congestion this year, sales are in a greater slump.

“It’s killing us. During summertime, business hurts anyway without the students, so this construction is just the icing on the cake,” Jalali said. “They are punching us while we’re down.”

Next door, owners of the Scone Lady’s Coffee Shop had posted a sign in their window reading, “We will close early today at 1 p.m. Thank you.” Jalali says his coffeeshop neighbor closes on slow days, which have become more frequent as of late.

Once August rolls around, motorists will once again have full access to the Orchard Corners shops when westbound Bob Billings Parkway, from Iowa Street, is reopened following the completion of the road construction. But in the meantime, Jalili is worried about the longterm effects of the construction on his business.

“A lot of people do not bother to go through the hassle of the detour,” Jalali said. “Customers will go to another store, then they start always going to that store and you can lose them for good.”

About a mile away, at the corner of Bob Billings and Wakarusa, construction is rerouting traffic through the shopping center that includes pet groomer and boutique Pawsh Wash. Receptionist Olivia Ewert says she has begun offering a new service: detour directions.

“We get a lot of calls for directions because it’s pretty tedious to find a way into this shopping strip,” Ewert said. “A lot of people do not know of the other entrances besides the one currently blocked off, but they find their way.”

While Pawsh Wash’s sales have not been noticably hurt by the construction, Ewert says she is still ready for the orange cones to go away.

“It was necessary and we are happy to pay it,” Ewert said. “Just get it done already.”

City communications manager Megan Gilliland said that while officials expected this summer to be challenging for many, they felt the construction projects were necessary, especially the rebuilding of the important intersection of Iowa Street, Bob Billings and the W. 15th Street entrance to KU's campus.

“We recognize that Iowa is a main artery in Lawrence,” Gilliland said, “but the infrastructure on our streets (was) failing and we had to respond.”

Lawrence driver Amy Rosales agrees that even though the construction was needed, the roadwork is aggravating.

“It’s nice that my tax dollars are being used for improvement that I can physically see," Rosales said, "but at the same time such an inconvenience to my personal and business life,”

While Kansas University freshmen will arrive to (hopefully) newly paved roads in the fall, Rosales says the college town must still go on when classes are out of session -- and the roadwork makes that difficult.

“The summertime is an opportune time for the construction since a lot of students are gone,” Rosales said, “but it’s still hectic for the remaining Lawrence life.”


akt2 4 years, 11 months ago

I'd like to know why people insist on blocking the entire intersection at 6th & Kentucky turning right into the single lane that goes across the bridge? The whole time sitting in the intersection like they are special. I guess they will find out how special they really are the day an ambulance or other emergency vehicle tries to get through. Easy money LPD. Start writing tickets.

Cindy Wallace 4 years, 10 months ago

I would like to know why, whoever is in charge of setting the lights....presumably someone with the city, can't get the lights set correctly. This is an issue every time the orange cones go up closing off the left lane going across the bridge. Which, by the way is closed more than it is open.... If you will notice, all of the traffic issues occur only because all 3 of the lights (Kentucky, Vermont and Mass) are set backwards. The first light s to turn green are Mass, Vermont, then Kentucky....during this time all of the traffic Eastbound traffic sits and waits...and wait....and waits some more. Here goes RED....First at Mass, then Vermont and lastly... Kentucky. The only time the eastbound traffic can move is when the lights at Mass and Vermont are already RED, leaving no room for the traffic coming on from Kentucky. It is so irritating to be sitting through 3 or 4 lights and watching the sequences of Red, Yellow and Green, knowing that if ANYONE at the City (incl the police force) cared enough to would be so simple to see and fix! Heaven forbid if someone in line is not paying attention and doesn't move with the rest of the traffic OR worse yet....there is someone in the northbound turn lane that needs in the straight eastbound lane! Those people will sometimes stop before a GREEN light instead of first going through. What an aggravation!

Jonathan Fox 4 years, 11 months ago

I hope people realize what a blessing the incredibly nice roads in Lawrence are. Elsewhere, potholes just sit and grow for months, roads that need repaved will only get temporary patches for years.

JayhawkFan1985 4 years, 11 months ago

No other city closes arterial and collector streets as long as Lawrence. The city allows contractors to make no progress for weeks at a time. Why doesn't the LJW investigate construction schedules and road closure practices in other cities such as Topeka, Olathe, Overland Park, etc. I would bet money that Lawrence is way out of step.

JayhawkFan1985 4 years, 11 months ago

You complain about the complaining...which is the least useful

PhilChiles 4 years, 11 months ago

The city is doing a lot of work on my street right now, I wish I knew who to thank. AND they're fixing the part of my driveway that meets the road. Awesome!!

Dan Edwards 4 years, 11 months ago

Write a letter to the editor of this paper. Hopefully they will publish it... would be a refreshing change of pace from the usual cadre of cranks and whiners who usually write in.

honestly33 4 years, 11 months ago

What happened to the road construction at 6th and Iowa, I thought it was scheduled to start last spring?

Jennifer Klopp 4 years, 11 months ago

It seems to me the Iowa street project has gone smoothly. They are making great progress working every day with little I interruption to north and southbound traffic. It could be much worse and it is good to have roads in good shape. I think the city has done the best they can to make the least amount of disruption for drivers. They could have waited till August 1st to start. Then it would really get interesting!

jhawk1998 4 years, 11 months ago

This is a nonsensical article, focusing on one recent graduate's complaints about getting around town? I don't care how much road construction there is in the summer, it is still a breeze to get around town in comparison to the school year. Since I know about it in advance and know the town I can avoid unnecessary delays. thankfully at least some of the roadwork that needs to get done is being worked on. My only suggestion would be to have roadwork done during nighttime hours instead of during the day - cooler and less traffic. If it is the only shift it would not require overtime.

Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 10 months ago

It was not focusing on her, they just needed quotes for the article so they talked to people to get their opinion. This is something that does impact a lot of peoples lives so we are all pretty much interested in roadwork.

Am I correct in thinking this is creating a lot more jobs?

Jennifer Klopp 4 years, 10 months ago

I may be wrong, but I believe a construction worker was struck and killed by a driver here in Lawrence a few years back while working the night shift. It is no doubt more dangerous for the crew between the change in lanes, traffic cones, darkness and equipment.

LogicMan 4 years, 10 months ago

Was that the construction on old US-59 south of town, where the person intentionally drove through the flaggers, etc. you are thinking about?

parrothead8 4 years, 10 months ago

Did you stop reading after the first paragraph or something? They talked to a bunch of people about different road closures all over town.

JayhawkFan1985 4 years, 11 months ago

The problem in lawrence is NOT the traffic. It is the lack of roadway connectivity. Historic neighborhoods here were built on the grid. Sadly, the grid wasn't extended so when a road is closed like Wakarusa or Bob Billings it is gosh darn inconvenient to travel around town as there are no alternate routes that don't take you two miles out of your way.

grimpeur 4 years, 10 months ago

The problem in Lawrence is not traffic, and it's not connectivity.

It's single-occupancy drivers driving less than a mile to destinations instead of walking, biking, busing, or even considering carpooling with their nearby neighbors who are going to the same destinations.

Sure, we like to use our cars. Alone. Every day. But this is the cost of that wasteful lifestyle choice.

JayhawkFan1985 4 years, 10 months ago

To walk or bike, you need a grid which maximizes connectivity and minimizes trip distances while maximizing route choices.

I do agree about active transportation. A bike will take you anywhere in Lawrence in less than 1 hour, but can be quite unsafe to cross 23rd or Iowa Streets.

Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 10 months ago

Excuse me, but that was rude. The reporter asked her for her opinion and she gave it. Interviewing people is part of the job description for a reporter.

"The day after Lexie Clark got her Kansas University diploma in May, she received an unwelcome graduation gift: roadway construction everywhere. "

Tomato 4 years, 10 months ago

I feel bad for the people who are running businesses in that area with the Scone Lady and University Liquor.

I stopped into one of the shops yesterday and I wasn't sure any of them were still open because there was only one vehicle in the entire parking lot.

They should have their employees park their cars in front of their stores so that people don't drive by and think the whole place just closed up due to construction.

Trumbull 4 years, 10 months ago

Why do we keep laying down asphalt? I do not know why Lawrence will never learn. Concrete is the only way to go.

Back in my home town, we have concrete streets. There is no such thing as road closures there and it is going on 50 years old. Sure there is some patching every now and then, but I can not really remember any large repairs like Lawrence.

Currahee 4 years, 10 months ago

Asphalt is buttery smooth (figuratively speaking) and quite a pleasant to drive on. It has less road noise than concrete and generally is easier to patch up. Of course, there's only so much you can do to it before it needs replacing (the intersection of Iowa and 15th was especially bad as the streets warped due to the heat last year) ... but if you want to take a look at how good concrete is when you do half-arsed patching, try driving in Topeka. The roads ride really rough. Remember that there are also trucks going through the area frequently which tear up the roads real well. But from the looks of the picture it looks like they're finally laying down concrete?

Kylee Manahan 4 years, 10 months ago

consider yourselves lucky you don't live on Terrace Road.

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