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.”