TOPEKA, Kan. - Monday, Sept. 15, Bettis Asphalt and Construction began tearing up the concrete of the two inside lanes on Wanamaker Road between Winding Road and 17th Street. Businesses in that area say they're upset because they didn't receive notice of the work until the Friday before.
The purpose of the median is to make that stretch of roadway safer. City Communications Manager David Bevens says there have been too many accidents, mainly from people making lefthand turns across the busy intersection.
The city's first plan was to put in three islands, or triangle medians, that would allow traffic to turn into the lots, but only make right turns when leaving. Those three islands would be put at an entrance to Wal-Mart, by Taco Bell to get into the shopping center, and on the south side of Best Buy. The city proposed the plan to property owners of Wal-Mart, the shopping center and Best Buy because it would require their approval for property line reasons.
Best Buy said yes to the islands; Wal-Mart and the shopping center said no.
Bevens said the city began to look at other ways to improve traffic safety in that area after those discussion with the three property owners. The idea of building a solid median from Winding Road to 17th Street was raised, discussed and approved.
A third option was discussed. It was to build a cut-through median for those turning left. It was considered but dismissed by City staff because it would require widening Wanamaker Road in that area to facilitate the median configuration, a costly venture.
Bevens said, "It is important to keep in mind that the median construction is a safety project. This is a safety issue that is the City’s responsibility to address. We moved forward with the solid median project in hopes of drastically reducing the number and severity of crashes in that area of Wanamaker."
Property owners attended Tuesday night's city council meeting to complain about the traffic inconvenience the median is causing to their customers. City council approved the project, which members say was tucked into another item it approved, making them unaware of the details.
Business owners also complained that they were given too short of notice for the project. Bevens said businesses were given short notice because of the speed of getting the project underway. The project was put out for bid twice. The first one came in way over budget. The second response was approved and so the city moved forward. Bevens said the city wants the project complete by the beginning of November to beat the shopping season.
The contractor, Bettis Asphalt and Construction, is ahead of schedule.
City leaders and business owners sat down Wednesday and began working out a deal on Wanamaker Road construction.
"We have to look at the needs of businesses," said Bevens. "We have to look at the safety needs of the travelling public and it's a balancing act."
The city decided to contact all three property owners - Wal-Mart, Best Buy and the shopping center - and again offer up the option of putting in islands.
Bevens said if all three agree this time, work would stop on the median and the concrete that has been dug up already would be replaced through an overlay project. He says because the islands are a cheaper project, it shouldn't end up costing anything extra to repair what has been done and put in the three islands.
Best Buy, which originally voted for the island, is happy with the proposal. "I think that is a great resolution for the safety of our customers and for our business," said Troy Mott, product process manager for Best Buy on Wanamaker. Mott said they have been in contact with the other businesses to come to an agreement on the matter.
Bevens said the city is expecting to hear from Wal-mart, Best Buy and the shopping center owner by Thursday afternoon, whether they want the islands or the median. He says all three must agree before the city will change plans.