Archive for Friday, July 31, 2009

Commute to Lawrence now paved with two construction projects, traffic delays

July 31, 2009

Signs are posted. Blockades are up. Construction equipment is moving in.

And cars are backing up.

Lane closures and a traffic detour shifted into place beginning this morning at North Second and Locust streets in North Lawrence, ushering in a system of disrupted traffic patterns that will be expected to last into early December.

The changes are part of a $2.63 million reconstruction project at the intersection, where new turn lanes, drainage inlets and an underground water line are to be installed. A persistent bump in the road also is to be removed.

Traffic heading south on North Second is now limited to one lane, and vehicles moving north are being steered onto a detour that involves Elm, North Third and — after crossing the Union Pacific railroad tracks — Lyon streets.

Even folks who might take a positive approach to such disruptions were having a difficult time adjusting Thursday.

“It’s not ideal,” conceded Ron King, a Lawrence insurance agent and member of the Lawrence Luncheon Optimists, which meets Thursdays at Johnny’s Tavern.

Rick Renfro, who’s owned Johnny’s since 1978 at the northwest corner of the intersection, said the detour added nearly nine minutes to his trip into work late Thursday morning.

“And that was without a train,” Renfro said.

Not that he’s complaining. More like adjusting.

Renfro now takes the Kansas Turnpike to get to and from Johnny’s. Spending a few cents to travel the turnpike is worth it, he said, so that he can take advantage of the single lane that remains open for traffic heading south on North Second.

Besides, he said, the construction project is a necessary one.

“I’m willing to pay the price for it,” Renfro said, referring both to the turnpike tolls and the larger, more-expensive hit his bar and restaurant business figures to endure through the end of Thanksgiving. “I’m sucking it up.”

The latest work comes as the Kansas Department of Transportation already has one of its own major projects underway: repaving an 11-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 24, beginning at Williamstown in Jefferson County and continuing east to the Leavenworth County line.

In between, hired contractors are busy scraping off two inches of pavement, mixing it in with fresh asphalt and then placing it back on the highway for a new, smooth surface.

It’s also forcing drivers to wait 20 minutes or longer for flaggers and pilot cars to lead them through the work zone, just a few miles north of where the city’s intersection overhaul is adding to the headaches. Crews were busy Thursday afternoon east of U.S. Highway 59 — that’s the extension of North Third Street — north of the Kansas Turnpike.

The KDOT project is allowing Renfro to look at the bright side once again.

“At least I don’t live in Lake Dabinawa anymore,” he said.

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