If you thought this week's debut of the Kellogg freeway at Rock Road meant finally getting to whiz through that stretch at highway speed, police offer a warning:
Not so fast.
The speed limit through much of the area — particularly eastbound — will remain 35 mph through the end of the year as crews finish work.
"And it will be enforced," Wichita police Sgt. James Krok said Friday.
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"It's an easy stretch of road. It's nice and straight, and I know it's hard slowing down," Krok said. "But... there's still construction in that area, and drivers need to use extreme caution."
Crews are still working from east of Woodlawn to well past Rock Road, "and we want everybody to be safe," said Mike Jacobs, special projects engineer.
Some motorists traveling the new stretch of road — at times as clear and wide as an airport runway — said they were surprised and disappointed by the work-zone speed limit.
"Thirty-five miles an hour seems a little ridiculous," said Matt Drachenberg of Fayetteville, Ark., who travels to Wichita regularly to visit his girlfriend.
Driving westbound Kellogg on Friday, Drachenberg said the highway "looked pretty finished to me — the landscaping's in and the road's done.... I didn't see work crews anywhere."
He slowed down when he saw the signs. "And I just cursed it all the way through, because I assumed there would be (police radar) traps everywhere," he said.
Krok, the police sergeant, said officers began monitoring the stretch shortly after eastbound lanes opened Wednesday. They asked road crews to put up more signs "to make it very clear what the speed limit is," he said.
Officers will patrol the area regularly, he said. "But are we planning any special enforcements? I can't say that we're going to do that."
Officials worry that eastbound drivers, after speeding along without a stoplight for nearly 13 miles, may find it especially hard to hit the brakes west of Woodlawn. Some might assume that since the new highway is open, construction is finished.
"I recognize it's difficult. It's difficult for me to drive that slow," said Jacobs, the project engineer. "When you've been going 60 and suddenly you're at 35, it feels like you're not moving."
Getting a ticket, though, could be pricey. Under state law, fines double in construction zones, so a ticket for 45 mph in the work zone would cost $220. Get clocked at 60 mph, and you could pay $370.
Officials said enforcement efforts aren't about revenue, but safety.
"Just like any other work zone, it's there for the protection of the travelers and the workers that are still there on the freeway," Jacobs said.
"I don't think anybody wants to go to someone's house and tell their children why their mother or father isn't coming home tonight."
Drachenberg, who drove the new portion of highway Friday, said he understands the need to protect highway workers, so he'll try not to complain too much.
Besides, "This morning was the first time in 43 years that I can remember not stopping at Kellogg and Rock," he said. "I'm used to traffic being stopped and backed up at that intersection.
"So given the alternative, I guess 35 miles an hour isn't that bad."