The world won’t stop, but traffic on Interstate 435 in Overland Park will — and that may seem like the same thing.
From Saturday night to Sunday afternoon all lanes, eastbound and westbound, will be shut down for about two and a half miles between Interstate 35 and U.S. 69.
That will produce something extremely rare for the perpetually roaring highway: silence.
Well, except for the moment when two bridges on Quivira Road get blown up.
It is all part of the Kansas Department of Transportation’s $102 million “Red Project” to ultimately reduce congestion.
Officials hope the red doesn’t equate to irate motorists. Highway message boards already are alerting people. KDOT’s website predicts “MAJOR DELAYS
” in bold, capital letters.
But, like ripping off a Band-Aid, officials hope a speedy operation will be less painful and put traffic back to normal by Monday for the 122,500 vehicles that use the highway each weekday.
“There’s just no way to bring a bridge down safely with traffic,” said Kimberly Qualls, spokeswoman for KDOT.
The plan is a choreographed bit of engineering and timing.
Lane closures in both directions on I-435 will begin at 5:30 p.m. Saturday and by 8 p.m. all traffic will cease.
Crews will then lay sand and about 500 cubic yards of dirt under the Quivira Road bridges to protect the interstate.
There are three bridges at that location: one for northbound traffic, one for southbound and a middle one for turns. The two eastern bridges are coming down.
They will first be wrapped in a tough black fabric to minimize flying debris. Then explosives will be detonated in the bridge piers to bring the decks crashing down.
After the dust clears, crews will work into Sunday morning hauling away the concrete, rebar, dirt and sand and cleaning up the highway.
Gawkers will not be allowed on public right-of-way.
The third bridge will be demolished later, meaning we’ll have to go through this again.
For now, KDOT promises I-435 and most ramps will reopen by 2 p.m. Sunday, weather permitting. Some access from Quivira to I-435 will remain closed.
KDOT’s Red Project will continue into 2013. It will add auxiliary lanes to I-435 between U.S. 69 and Quivira Road. Improvements on U.S. 69 will continue from 103rd to 119th streets.
In the big picture, the work is intended to address congestion at I-435 and U.S. 69.