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City to flip the switch Wednesday on new traffic signal at 23rd and O'Connell; Sixth and Iowa intersection improvements delayed


Some of you break my heart. I had a reader ask me recently: “What are they doing out at the old Farmland property?”

We’ve only been reporting for the last half-decade or so that the city is working to convert the former 400-plus acre fertilizer plant into a new business and industrial park.

Well, beginning tomorrow, you’ll get a little extra chance to see the process up close. As part of the construction project, the city has installed a new traffic signal at 23rd and O’Connell, and it will begin functioning on Wednesday morning.

The good news is if you like piles of dirt and the machines that make them, there’s plenty to look at. Two different construction companies are on site building both the street system and the water and sewer lines for the property. If you haven’t driven by recently, the property has had many of its trees removed and looks much like my lawn in July — massive stretches of bare dirt. You can begin to see the outlines of a new road that will stretch from the 23rd and O’Connell intersection to the East Hills Business Park, which is just east of the Farmland property.

That new road is the reason for the new $600,000 traffic signal and turn lane. Once the new road is completed later this year, the 23rd and O’Connell intersection is expected to become the main entrance for the East Hills Business Park. If you listen closely, you should hear the cheers from employees of the business park who no longer will have to cross K-10 at a dangerous, unsignalized hill to get to and from work each day.

The 23rd and O’Connell intersection also will be the main entrance to the Farmland property. There is no word yet on when we may see the first tenant for that property, but I think the project is drawing strong interest from companies. In fact, I think it is a good bet that 2013 is going to be a more exciting year on the economic development front than 2012 was.


While we’re on the subject of intersections and road projects, there is one area that may have you confused. (Actually, I’ve seen some of you drive. There are plenty of intersections that confuse you.)

But I’m talking specifically about Sixth and Iowa streets. We’ve been reporting that motorists should brace themselves for a major road project that involves building additional turn lanes at the odd-shaped T-intersection.

Well, brace yourself for a little longer. The city engineer has confirmed to me that the Sixth and Iowa project won’t start on time.

City Engineer David Cronin told me that more engineering work has to be done to convince state officials that the large concrete-box bridges underneath the intersection — McDonald Drive runs underneath the intersection — can support the additional pavement planned for Sixth and Iowa.

But Cronin said he is still confident that the project is going to be deemed feasible. In fact, he is projecting that construction work can begin in late summer and be completed by the end of the year. Originally, the city had hoped to begin the intersection work during the early summer season so that most of the work would be completed while the bulk of KU students were away.

The project will involve several aspects, but the main improvement is a left-turn lane on Sixth Street for westbound motorists. Cronin said state officials asked for additional geo-technical work to assess the capabilities of the box bridges, which were built in the 1950s. Cronin said the bridges are the responsibility of the state, but his analysis shows the bridges still have about another 20 years of life left in them.

“I’m still confident the project is going to proceed this year,” Cronin said. “We just want to double check everything.”


gccs14r 5 years ago

They shouldn't add a left turn lane, they should prohibit left turns. Westbound 6th to southbound Iowa should take the ramp for northbound Iowa down to a rotary and proceed south from there. Northbound Iowa to westbound 6th should also take the rotary and proceed up the existing ramp over behind the hotel. Right turns can be handled with Yield signs. Then the existing traffic light can be removed.

parrothead8 5 years ago

You've obviously never been anywhere near that intersection at any of the typical higher-traffic times of the day. Every single one of your suggestions is ridiculous.

MarcoPogo 5 years ago

Not to mention that the real problem that is being discussed here is westbound 6th Street drivers being able to turn left onto southbound Iowa.

gccs14r 5 years ago

Exactly, which is why you make it so they don't have to turn left across 6th St. traffic. They take a right, go north a few hundred feet to a rotary, and then go back south beneath 6th, using the existing bridge.

skull 5 years ago

You obviously don't realize that all these lights and stop signs are what CREATE traffic in this small town. Removing a stop light is not ridiculous, it's what needs to happen. Adding another turn lane will mean no left turn without an arrow, which will only hinder travel more and create more congestion.

Hooligan_016 5 years ago

I'm having some difficulty picturing all this in my head ... it seems like far to much renovation/construction than is possible in that awkward area.

A dedicated left turn lane with light is going to greatly help with traffic flow.

skull 5 years ago

Left turn lights only hinder more. Forcing drivers to pile up for a few minutes of empty intersection before given the arrow.

average 5 years ago

I've had the same basic idea as gccs at that interchange. No, it's not the ideal solution. But anything there is going to be a kludge to keep using the existing box-culverts and roads that were put in 60 years ago when traffic was a quarter of what it is today.

I think the big problem is that a lot of traffic would be going '270 degrees' (westbound 6th to SB Iowa), and traffic from McDonald could stack up heavily trying to get on the rotary. One side benefit to the rotary proposal is that EB 6th to NB McDonald would no longer be trying to make an unprotected left.

average 5 years ago

Regarding gccs' proposal, I would however, leave the light and the left from NB Iowa to WB 6th. There's simply too much traffic that way for Rockledge to support, and it's not a major problem currently.

gccs14r 5 years ago

A 2-lane rotary would work to let McDonald Dr. traffic in from the north.

Hooligan_016 5 years ago

US 24/40 is a multi-lane highway and has signals.

Bob Forer 5 years ago

I disagree. The danger at the moment is trying to turn left onto 23rd from O'Connell. Surprised there haven't been any serious accidents there that I know of. I am sure there will be signs posted warning east and westbound traffic of an upcoming traffic signal. Motorists who cannot read a sign nor see a traffic light shouldn't be driving.

Hopefully, there will also be under pavement sensors so the light remains green for K-10 traffic until a car has been waiting for x number of seconds on O'Connell road waiting to enter the intersection.

Brian Hall 5 years ago

In a few years East 23rd from Iowa to Noria won't be a multi-lane highway so your point will be moot. Sadly, no intersection is perfect because an intersection is only as good as the worst driver using it.

Radar Callaway 5 years ago

What is the estimated completion date for when the road will be connected to the East Hills Business Park? Thanks.

bearded_gnome 5 years ago

Well, beginning tomorrow, you’ll get a little extra chance to see the process up close. As part of the construction project, the city has installed a new traffic signal at 23rd and O’Connell, and it will begin functioning on Wednesday morning.

---I sincerely hope that this signal does not include noisemaking features like recorded voice, quacking duck sounds, beeping, etc., all noise pollution.

they actually impair the function of the blind at those intersections whom they are supposed to assist by imposing artificial noise over the sounds the blind pedestrians need to hear to directly understand flow of traffic.

with these, blind pedestrians can only hear the droning voice as in next to city hall.

gccs14r 5 years ago

I'm sure they'd love to do that, but the money isn't there for it.

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