Possible railroad tanker car discovered buried downtown

02/18/2013 3:11 PM

02/18/2013 3:21 PM

Construction crews have uncovered a buried tank, possibly a buried railroad tanker, on the site of a new apartment project at First and Waco in downtown.

The possible tanker, about five feet underground, was uncovered Monday by an excavation operation beginning work on the Builders Inc. 36-unit apartment project on land the company co-owns with the city, according to city and company officials. It wasn’t immediately clear why the tanker was buried on the site, how old the tanker might be or whether it contains any hazardous materials.

Builders Inc. president Mike Garvey was in meetings and could not be immediately reached for comment this afternoon.

City Manager Robert Layton said Monday afternoon the discovery caught him “cold,” but that city building staff would be put on the discovery this week.

It marks the second time in about a year that downtown builders have discovered problems while excavating a new construction project. Crews excavating the city’s new parking garage at Block 1 on Douglas found the remnants of several old downtown buildings buried on the site, including foundations and debris. That project proceeded with only minor adjustments.

“It’s an urban environment you’re dealing with, and anytime you do a project in an urban environment these are the sorts of things you deal with,” said Jeff Fluhr, president of the Wichita Downtown Development Corp.

Fluhr said the First and Waco property was once a high density railroad traffic site.

“A spur … used to go right through the middle of that site,” Fluhr said. “You had a train station there, a fair amount of railroad activity. Even over by the Cargill Innovation Center, there was a track along that area.

“It’s just one of those things you’re not aware of until you start getting into the excavation of the site.”

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