The Lawrence traffic situation is a mess and apparently will continue to be a mess until sometime in 2015. It is an embarrassment that the construction work wasn’t better planned to avoid the current major problems.
The mess is maddening, frustrating and dangerous. It is causing serious losses for businesses located on the streets where construction work is rerouting or backing up traffic. The entire community is being hurt because out-of-town shoppers and visitors are less inclined to come to Lawrence and risk being entrapped by major traffic delays. It’s far easier and less stressful to drive to retailers in the Topeka or Kansas City areas. Many residential areas also are being affected by the increased traffic spurred by drivers trying to avoid major construction zones.
It continues to be puzzling why Lawrence officials don’t try harder to speed up construction projects. Last week, a bridge spanning the six-lane Interstate 435 was demolished overnight as part of a highway construction project in Overland Park. The wreckage was cleared and the highway was reopened the next day. Crews worked through the night to complete the project.
Why can’t at least some of the current Lawrence projects be put on a fast-track schedule with crews working with lights at night and over the weekends in an effort to cash in on incentives for getting the work completed ahead of schedule?
What’s done is done, and Lawrence residents, visitors and merchants will have to live with it. City officials say the convergence of projects was driven primarily by when state funds for the work became available. Nonetheless, there should be evidence that city officials are doing everything within reason to speed up the projects and adjust traffic signals to try to ease the traffic flow.
The backups and slow traffic the community are experiencing now will pale by comparison to the jams that will occur when the fall semester starts at Kansas University and the Lawrence public schools — not to mention the Saturdays when spectators are trying to make it to Memorial Stadium for home football games.
Again, this is an embarrassment. Lawrence can do better.