31st Street

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Story by Mark Fagan, special to eudorareporter.com

A busy section of 31st Street will be closed for more than two weeks beginning Monday, redirecting thousands of Lawrence commuters.

The closure will allow crews to repair and repave 31st, from Louisiana Street to Haskell Avenue. Because the portion of 31st is at the edge of town, it also is known as North 1300 Road, from East 1400 to East 1500 roads.

Douglas County is financing the $385,500 job, hiring contractors to patch problem areas and then coat the mile-long stretch with a blanket of asphalt two inches thick.

The road is set to reopen Aug. 3, with 2,600 tons of fresh asphalt, new lane markings and sections of paved roadside shoulders.

“The road’s just in very poor shape and it needs some significant work to make it last,” said Terese Gorman, engineering division manager for the county’s Department of Public Works.

The 10,000 drivers who use the road each day will need to find an alternate route — likely involving 23rd Street and, depending on a driver’s direction, either Louisiana or Haskell, Gorman said.

The goal is to keep the road in workable condition for at least the next five years, and likely longer. That’s because the entire section is set to be torn out in conjunction with extension of the South Lawrence Trafficway, a $192 million project to build a four-lane highway around the southeastern edge of Lawrence.

The Kansas Department of Transportation plans to bid the project in September 2013 to start work on an extension connecting the current end of the trafficway — at U.S. Highway 59 at the southern edge of Lawrence — with Kansas Highway 10 near Noria Road, southeast of town.

Whether trafficway construction actually starts then — the project remains opposed in federal court by individuals and groups with environmental, cultural and other concerns — county officials say they can’t afford to wait for that section of 31st to be replaced. The “new” 31st is slated to be built just south of the current one, closer to the “32nd Street alignment” of the trafficway through the Baker Wetlands.

“We anticipate that 31st Street will be in full use a minimum — an absolute minimum — five years from now, and probably longer than that, before the new 31st Street would be in place and usable for the public,” Gorman said. “And that’s not a 5-minute job. It’ll go on for a long time. It also involves moving Haskell (Avenue) and Louisiana (Street). It’s a major undertaking.”

So the county is moving ahead with its maintenance project.

Eudora-based Little Joe’s Asphalt Inc. secured the contract, and its crews will be instructed to work in the early mornings when making repairs in 31st’s intersections with Louisiana and Haskell. The goal is to keep additional traffic disruptions off 31st to a minimum, Gorman said.

“Most of the project, you will be able to get through the intersection at Louisiana and through the intersection at Haskell,” she said.