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City: Road project along East 13th could be finished by month’s end

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, at 9:23 p.m.
  • Updated Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, at 9:44 p.m.

Construction that has been underway for more than a year along East 13th Street between Hydraulic and Oliver could be completed by the end of the month, the city says.

It can’t happen soon enough for those who live and work along that stretch of road in northeast Wichita.

“It’s been terrible” said Jackie Franklin, who lives in an apartment in the 3300 block of East 13th, where cars crammed into one lane by traffic cones pass only a few feet from her front door. “Sometimes we had to put ear plugs in our ears because the noise would be so bad. They had to turn the water off several times and we were without water up to four hours every time. It’s just been a big damn mess.”

She and her neighbor, Cherry Davis, said they have been praying every day for an end to the work. Their prayers are about to be answered. The city said all lanes on East 13th could be open to traffic by the end of the month, weather permitting.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Davis, whose apartment is as close to the street as Franklin’s. “They have put us through it.”

“This whole building has been vibrating,” she said. “My body would be vibrating. The bed would be vibrating.”

Steve Degenhardt, construction division manager for the city, said crews should finish laying asphalt from Hillside to Oliver by the end of next week, then add pavement markings. The portion from Hydraulic to Hillside already has been paved and markings are being added, he said.

“Hopefully, cold weather doesn’t set in too quickly and we get the asphalt done,” Degenhardt said. “Pavement markings need the right temperature, too.”

There is a little bit of sidewalk work left to finish in conjunction with asphalt and pavement markings, as well as some fence work to be done at MacDonald Golf Course along East 13th, he said. Work on the fence could extend into winter, but won’t have much impact on traffic, he said.

The renovation project started in August 2012 and cost $11.7 million. Workers widened East 13th from four lanes to five, adding a center turn lane. Sidewalks, storm drains and water and sewer utilities have been improved. A signalized intersection was added at 13th and Roosevelt, and a crosswalk was provided at 13th and Erie, Degenhardt said.

People who live and work along East 13th said they lost property to the street widening, and suffered for months from dust, noise and restricted access.

The project was part of an effort by the city to boost capacity and safety on one of its major east-west corridors. The goal was to improve the safety of turns onto numerous side streets and help traffic flow.

Degenhardt said a center lane for turns won’t block traffic, and widening the street will provide extra safety for drivers and emergency vehicles. Improving storm drainage was a big goal as well, he said.

Michelle Buckles, who lives in a house in the 2700 block of East 13th, said she lost a fence along the front of her property to the construction and can’t let her kids outside to play unsupervised anymore. A set of stairs leading from the sidewalk to her house also disappeared when workers took down her old retaining wall and put in a new one. For a while, her driveway was blocked and she had to use a makeshift entrance behind the house to get in and out.

She also had to install a new front door because dust from the construction blew in under the old one.

“It’s been too much for me,” Buckles said.

She wasn’t excited to learn that the work would be finished soon.

“It should have already been done,” she said.

Impact on businesses

Some businesses along East 13th suffered during the construction. James Crawford, who has owned and operated Creations by Crawford Floral Design near 13th and Oliver for 26 years, said his business has suffered a large drop-off since the work began.

“It’s been a nightmare,” he said. “ I’ve had the hardest time I ever had in business, probably in my life. I just don’t get people in here.”

Traffic speeds by him even though the street has cones on it, he said. Traffic used to go through his parking lot, and he has to pick up trash out of his parking lot every day, he said. Cracks have formed in the lot and he may have to redo it, he said.

“I recognize what they’re doing,” Crawford said, “but it’s real disappointing to me.”

Mamie Jordan, who has owned the adjoining “Music and More Record Shop” and “M&M Community Mart” in the 2400 block of East 13th for 29 years, said she suffered an estimated 35 percent drop in both businesses during the construction.

She is hopeful she can make up some of that lost income when the cones disappear. She knows the construction deterred her customers, she said. It also dug up her parking lot.

“It’s been pretty bad,” Jordan said. “We had to park elsewhere in order to get up in here, and with all the work, there was a lot of dust and noise going on.”

Overdue improvements

But Timothy Cook, who owns a building in the 3100 block of East 13th that houses several businesses, including his O.G’s International Hair Design shop, said the work was long overdue.

Cook renovated the facade of the building and hopes more passers-by will notice and stop when the work is done. Meanwhile, the $5 haircuts he offers to high school and college students kept his business going well during the construction, he said.

“We see the big picture,” Cook said, referring to himself and his partner, Shelbert Washington. “We believe that once it gets completed it’s going to be a lot better because it will create traffic flow.”

Ken Kretzschmar, service manager at G&L Garage at 2512 E. 13th, said the project took about about 10 feet out of his parking lot. He and his next door neighbor, Larry Nichols, owner of Nichols Lawn Service, who shares the lot, got a lawyer to keep the city from replacing it with grass, which wouldn’t have worked well with their businesses. They were allowed to put down new concrete if they paid for it themselves, he said.

Nichols said that for a time, traffic diverted by the construction whizzed through his side of the parking lot.

“This became a freeway,” he said.

Neither said the construction had much of an adverse impact their businesses, however. Nichols takes his work to his customers. Kretzschmar said his customers were willing to drive around the block and get to the garage the back way.

“It could have affected business a little bit,” Kretzschmar said, “but it could’ve been a lot worse.”

Still, Kretzschmar was happy to see crews painting stripes on the road last week.

“I never thought I’d be so excited to see them out there putting paint down,” he said.

Reach Fred Mann at 316-268-6310 or fmann@wichitaeagle.com.

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