The most traffic in Kansas, the biggest construction project, a two-and-a-half-year timeline — the Johnson County Gateway project is a huge undertaking for the state and an even bigger challenge for motorists.
But a month in, the Kansas Department of Transportation hopes drivers will be willing to suffer delays and detours as long as they know about them beforehand.
KDOT has created a website to keep drivers updated. A couple of times a week, it texts drivers who sign up for the free alerts about lane closures.
“People can generally stomach having things out of service for six months,” said Burt Morey, KDOT project manager. “People just want to know ahead of time when things are about to be closed.”
The $288 million project will overhaul Interstate 35, Kansas 10 and the huge Interstate 435 interchange, affecting an estimated 230,000 drivers a day.
Construction started at the end of May, and lane closures now occur in different areas daily. Morey said construction has started in the southwest area and will slowly spread northeast.
In addition to creating a website at www.jocogateway.com and a text service, KDOT has talked with businesses in the area, asking them to keep their employees and customers aware of delays that may be caused by construction.
For example, when the nearby Overland Park Regional Medical Center knows of a delay, it alerts partner Quivira Internal Medicine, which then alerts doctors and nurses to tell their patients to leave earlier for appointments, said Liz Prezant, administrator for the Quivira Internal Medicine practice.
The Overland Park Convention and Visitors Bureau also hopes to keep the businesses it works with aware by sending a newsletter about lane closures to each of the city’s 36 hotels.
“The information trickles down,” said Liron BenDor, the bureau’s vice president of marketing. “The end results are visitors to the metro leave satisfied.”
Lenexa city engineer Tim Green said there are distribution centers in the area that use trucks to send and receive goods. When interchanges nearby start to close for construction, local traffic will be heavier, so Lenexa plans to work with KDOT contractors to adjust traffic signal timing.
Even with the constant communication, some businesses have started to feel the strain from all the detours and lane reductions.
Ongoing construction adds five to 10 minutes to delivery times, said Eric Oakman, manager of the Goodcents Deli Fresh Subs near the Interstate 435 interchange. With up to a dozen delivery orders a day, customers can get angry when the seemingly close restaurant isn’t prompt.
“Some customers understand, some don’t, but they all expect us to be there in five minutes because we are around the corner from them,” Oakman said.
Diana Songy, a clerical worker at Quivira Internal Medicine, said her commute from Lenexa to Overland Park has become twice as long — four times as long if there is an accident.
Songy, who lives off Kansas 10, said she can be on the expressway up to four times a day with her commute to and from work, plus shopping and family outings. For drivers to keep their sanity, Songy said, they need to understand that they have to drive differently in the congested construction zones.
“People need to learn how to merge,” Songy said.
Complaints about construction aren’t ubiquitous. Even with eastbound I-435 under construction nearby, Wayne Long, the owner of a Phillips 66 station near the I-435 interchange, said he gets about 1,500 customers a day and hasn’t heard a complaint about construction from any of them so far.
Morey of KDOT said that ultimately the project, slated to be completed by Dec. 31, 2016, will reduce congestion and simplify connections between side streets and freeways. He said it will lead to safer expressways, less pollution due to fewer traffic jams and a projected economic impact of $1.3 billion and 1,100 full-time jobs.
“This is going to be painful but very much worth it,” said Mary Jaeger, Olathe’s public works director.
This year, crews will work on College Boulevard between Ridgeview Road and Renner Boulevard, the Kansas 10 and Ridgeview interchange, westbound I-435, eastbound major roads from Renner Boulevard to Lackman Road and the flyover bridge from eastbound Kansas 10 to northbound I-435.
More on the project
Sign up for construction text alerts at www.jocogateway.com.
Information on the project itself will be at www.jocogateway.com, on the “Johnson County Gateway: I-435/I-35/K-10 Interchange Study” Facebook page and on Twitter: @KansasCityKDOT or #jocogateway.