Downtown Wichita rumbles as crews make Douglas more accessible (VIDEO)

08/06/2014 6:40 PM

08/07/2014 7:16 AM

On Wednesday, the shaking and pounding along East Douglas Avenue continued.

From Market to Rock Island, drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists dodged orange cones and construction workers, jackhammers and motorized Bobcats that wheeled and turned along intersections.

Think of it as a beautification project.

“I came back from vacation and there were all these orange cones,” said Mary Wright, owner of the Old Mill Tasty Shop. “I was like ‘Hmm, what’s going on here?’ ”

It’s Phase One of the Douglas Avenue Corridor Transit Oriented Development.

It is a remake of Douglas Avenue through downtown. The construction has caused the windows in old buildings to rattle and objects on desks to shake.

Digging through the layers of asphalt and concrete has also revealed old bricks, all of which are being removed.

When the work is finished, eight high-tech bus shelters will be installed along Douglas, along with curb extensions, benches and bike racks in an effort to make downtown more accessible and pedestrian friendly.

Paul Gunzelman, Wichita’s assistant city engineer, said funding for the project is coming from a federal transportation grant.

Phase One is expected to cost a little more than $1 million and will be completed by Sept. 19. Work began last week.

Curb extensions – exactly like the ones already completed on West Douglas – are planned, Gunzelman said. The extensions include accessible ramps at the northwest and southeast corners of each intersection from Market to Mead streets. A crosswalk with a traffic signal is planned at Douglas and Rock Island.

The bus shelters will include electronic information signs, and the project will include enough parking for 175 bicycles.

The next phase includes landscape medians and will be done when funding becomes available, Gunzelman said.

The project was approved by the Wichita City Council in August 2012. It was approved after several public workshops and citizen input on how to remake the major commerce street from McLean to Washington.

Wright said the construction hasn’t affected business at the Old Mill.

“People are still coming here,” she said. “We are a destination, and they are finding ways to get here.”

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