LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) A $140 million, three-year effort to replace turnpike bridges over the Kansas River in Lawrence and rebuild two interchanges is being called the “mother of all projects.”
“It’s a huge project for us,” Mike Johnston, the Kansas Turnpike Authority’s chief executive. “It is going to entail some very challenging traffic management issues for the community.”
The current bridges will reach the end of their serviceability by 2012, Johnston said. Bid-letting for the project is set for May, and construction on a new westbound bridge is expected to start in June.
“The bridges have to be replaced,” he said. “That’s not discretionary. It is going to be a real trying experience from time to time.”
The new larger westbound, three-lane river bridge will be constructed just north of the existing bridges, spanning 2,300 ft. (701 m), said Kansas Turnpike Authority project engineer Rex Fleming.
A bridge over the turnpike carrying traffic from the west Lawrence toll plaza to the westbound lanes will be torn down.
In mid-2009, the second phase of the project is scheduled to begin and all traffic in both directions will be moved onto the newly constructed bridge over the river. Once construction on a new eastbound bridge starts, the old bridges will be torn down.
The final phase will begin in 2011 with completion of the eastbound bridge and resurfacing along the 2-mi. (3.2 km) corridor between the two interchanges.
Approximately 31,000 vehicles a day travel by Lawrence on the turnpike, Johnston said. Traffic increases by about 1.5 percent each year, he said.
Douglas County Commissioner Bob Johnson said the turnpike improvements — although inconvenient — will have a positive impact on the area.
“People will get awfully frustrated at times,” he said. “I’ll probably be one of them, but three years is a relatively short period of time.”