The bulk of the $155 million construction project at Kellogg and Rock Road is expected to be completed by Thanksgiving — nearly three years after work began. "You will be on the freeway, Rock Road will be completely open," Mike Jacobs, special projects engineer for the city of Wichita, said Wednesday.
Left turns will again be permitted at Rock Road, Armour and Towne East Mall Drive, the new name for the road directly west of the mall.
It's welcome news for many motorists who have dealt with construction since work began in early 2007.
"You can't make a left-hand turn on north (northbound) Rock Road," said Brian Fisher, who was shopping at Towne East Square on Thursday. "It took me forever to figure out I needed to get off on" a nearby road.
As for the project's pending completion, Fisher said, "I think it'll be good, as long as (traffic) doesn't get backed up too far."
The project's finish also is welcomed by surrounding retailers — particularly since the intersection will be ready in time for the holiday shopping season.
"We've been living this thing basically since it started," said Michael Payton, area mall manager for Simon Properties, which owns Towne East.
He credited the city for doing its best to ensure accessibility into the mall lot.
"But now," he said, "it's getting to the point where it's getting old. It's time for it to be done."
That time has come.
The freeway opening means that motorists will soon be able to travel 13 miles of Kellogg between stoplights — from 111th Street West to Cypress, near the Kansas Turnpike interchange in the east.
Jacobs said that the city's goal is to have the entire Kellogg and Rock Road project completed by the end of the year, but that depends on the weather.
By Thanksgiving, the city projects that at least Rock Road will be open and two of the three lanes in each direction of the freeway will be open to traffic.
Jacobs said that traffic will continue to increase on what historically has been one of the city's busiest intersections.
Before work began on the Kellogg project, traffic counts showed that 45,000 vehicles a day traveled on Kellogg and 26,000 on Rock Road. A 30-year plan projected those numbers growing to 92,000 on Kellogg and 41,000 on Rock Road.
"When you take something from an arterial street with stoplights to a freeway," Jacobs said, "people are drawn to that."
He called the project's completion a milestone.
"Kellogg and Rock is one of those places in Wichita everyone knows where it is, what it is," he said.
The city has already begun planning for the next stage of the Kellogg project.
Jacobs said that the city is working on designs for the next two miles of Kellogg in each direction — at 119th and 135th streets on the west and Webb and Greenwich on the east.
For now, many are content with the project at Kellogg and Rock Road wrapping up.
"I think what'll happen is, not just in the Towne East area, it'll make that whole quadrant there more user-friendly, more accessible," said Payton, of Simon Properties.