Expansion Project on Kansas Turnpike to Begin Soon

Tue July 29, 2003 - Midwest Edition

TOPEKA, KS (AP) The state plans to widen the Kansas Turnpike between Lawrence and Topeka, giving thousands of daily commuters an extra lane in each direction.

"We need to do it because East Topeka and Lecompton have had tremendous traffic growth,’ said Michael Johnston, the turnpike’s president and CEO. "We either add capacity to meet that growth or we have lower and lower levels of services."

Plans are to expand from four to six lanes the 12.7-mi (20.4 km) stretch of the turnpike from the Lecompton Interchange, at Lawrence’s west edge, to the East Topeka Interchange.

The extra lanes are scheduled to be in operation by the end of 2006.

The project includes the addition of a higher safety barrier in the median, along with drainage improvements. It is estimated to cost $108.6 million, with financing to come from the sale of bonds and turnpike tolls.

Last year, the average daily traffic count between the two interchanges totaled 32,627 vehicles, about half in each direction.

That was 2,264 more than in 2001, according to turnpike records.

Jeremy Anderson, an aide to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, is among more than 600 state workers who make the daily trip to Topeka from Lawrence.

At peak periods when commuters are headed home through the Lecompton Interchange, "there are times they are backed out onto the turnpike,’ he said.

With housing expanding rapidly on Lawrence’s west side, the Lecompton Interchange has become the turnpike entrance of choice for many heading west.

"It just opened our business to more and more people,’ Johnston said. "We’ve had and are experiencing real growth. Once we get past Lecompton, the traffic drops off.’

The turnpike is buying additional right-of-way that will be necessary for construction of five new bridges.

Johnston said the purchase should be completed in about 30 days, with the bridge work offered for bids this fall. Construction will begin before the end of the year.

Bids for pavement work will be accepted sometime next year.

Eventual completion of the proposed South Lawrence Trafficway,

connecting Kansas 10 from Johnson County to the turnpike at the

Lecompton Interchange, would mean more cars and trucks adding to

the traffic count, Johnston said.