Merriam provides overview of upcoming Johnson Drive Improvement project

The Johnson Drive project will include new mill and overlay from I-35 east to Mackey Street, including the intersection at IEKA Way and Johnson Drive (pictured).

A handful of Merriam residents on Wednesday evening gathered at City Hall to learn more about upcoming construction in Merriam: the Johnson Drive CARS project.

Project Coordinator Carl Sanders, Public Works Director Jim MacDonald and two representatives from the design team from Affinis working on the project gave residents a general overview of what to expect from the project. The rehabilitation project will target Johnson Drive from the BNSF railroad tracks near Interstate 35 east to city limits, and include the following:

  • Mill and overlay from I-35 to Mackey Street
  • Adding 150-watt, 15-foot tall, black powder coated street lights
  • Curb and gutter replacement
  • Adding and widening sidewalks
  • Driveway approach replacements that comply with ADA regulations
Carl Sanders, far left in dark red plaid and glasses, explains to residents what will happen during the Johnson County CARS project in 2020.

The estimated budget for the project — paid for through the Johnson County CARS program and the city’s special sales tax — lands at just over $658,000, according to city documents. Sanders said the anticipated start date for the project is somewhere between April to June 2020, and while the number of work days has yet to be decided, he said he expects it to take approximately four months.

“Yeah, there’s going to be a disaster for awhile,” Councilmember Scott Diebold told to the residents. “What I’ve found is that the city does a great job of making that disaster one at a time and getting everything they can — the sidewalks, street lights, all of those things — and getting it out of your neighborhood and not have to come back for awhile.”

One resident suggested making drivers aware of the construction as far back as Mastin Street, and Sanders said it is something the city will look into to help with traffic flow. To further alleviate potential traffic jams, Sanders said the city will try to alert other cities about a week before construction starts in case drivers want to find alternate routes.

Affinis President Kristen Leathers-Gratton said since Johnson Drive is popular thoroughfare, there are stipulations for when the contractor is able to work. For instance, the contractor will close the outside lane when working on the curb to provide safety, but the lanes will reopen daily. Additionally, the contractor cannot work during the morning or evening rush hours and cannot turn equipment on during certain hours of the day, she said.

“The last thing we want is everyone to be backed up, especially with the railroad tracks there between Merriam Drive and the ramps, ” Leathers-Gratton said.

In addition to the mill and overlay from I-35 going east, Sanders said the city is going to work to improve the ride over the railroad tracks. He said there has already been outreach to BNSF about this, and while it may not be perfect due to differing elevations, it will be a better ride.

Although a project schedule and timeline are not set in stone yet, Leathers-Gratton said there will be another public meeting once the contractor is on board. At that meeting, residents will be able to learn more about specific project details and meet the contractor, she said.