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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

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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.”

Comments

Liberal 10 months, 3 weeks ago

6th & Iowa should be completely removed, redesigned properly and rebuilt. Trying to do what they are talking about is putting lipstick on a pig.

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consumer1 10 months, 3 weeks ago

I was thinking about the original plans of the industrial park. The poor planning would have been better to create a access road to connect at a safer point. One of the major problems we have in this city, concerning traffic is 23d street. so much stop and go traffic due to the number of business' on that street. The city itself agreed it should have installed access road along both sides of 23d decades ago. I guess we are too smart to learn from our mistakes.

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bearded_gnome 10 months, 3 weeks 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.

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RadarC 10 months, 3 weeks ago

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

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consumer1 10 months, 3 weeks ago

This makes me sad. I know someone will die there soon. Putting stop lights on a multilane highway spells disaster, for someone or several someones. this is a shame. Poor poor planning from the start. I mean the entire entry and exit of those business's on that strip of road.

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gccs14r 10 months, 3 weeks 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.

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