Wichitans wanting to drive over the Lincoln Street Bridge will have to find another route for the next year or so.
Work is progressing on a $13.7 million project to reconstruct the bridge over the Arkansas River and build a new dam downstream. The city plans to open it in late 2012.
The city waited to close the bridge and lower the dam gates until the Wichita River Festival ended, said city engineer Jim Armour. The only part of Lincoln that is closed is the segment that crosses the river.
As a detour on the west side, drivers can take McLean to Harry Street, which also has a bridge over the river. Once they cross, they can use Market Street to return to Lincoln. On the east side of the bridge, people can take Main Street to Harry to cross the river.
The project started March 14 and included preparation work on the new dam, which will be about 200 feet downstream, Armour said. The contractor plans to start with the new dam.
"We want to make sure that work is progressing on the new dam and that it will be completed on time before we tear out the old one," Armour said.
Builders expect to finish the new dam in time for the 2012 Riverfest.
The city built the current bridge in 1970 with a rubber dam underneath. By 1976, the rubber dam had failed, and the city replaced it with the current concrete dam.
Because the dam is connected to the bridge, it added lateral stress that caused premature damage, Armour said.
By separating the two, Armour said the city hopes to get a 60-year life out of each, though the bridge will probably need maintenance in 30 or 40 years.
Plans for the dam and bridge also include a passage on the east side for boats and fish to travel through.
Once the passage is complete, people in canoes can travel downstream in a series of steps or rapids while fish travel upstream, Armour said.
The city was required by federal law to construct a fish passage if it moved the dam, he said. The City Council decided to add the boat passage so people would no longer have to get out of their boats when they reach the dam.
Federal funds will pay for about $300,000 to $500,000 of the fish and boat passage and $4 million of the bridge costs, Armour said.
The city lowered the dam gates Monday. By Friday, the river is expected to reach a low flow elevation level, where it will stay until the 2012 Riverfest.
Reach Sarah Rajewski at 316-269-6752 or email@example.com.