Three bike paths in Wichita will be expanded this year after the Wichita City Council on Tuesday approved $1.6 million in funding.
The projects were chosen despite dissent from members who think better projects were slighted.
The council voted 5-2 to approve the recommendation by Gary Janzen, city engineer.
This looks citywide at making connections where needed, where it makes the most sense.
Gary Janzen, Wichita city engineer
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“This looks citywide at making connections where needed, where it makes the most sense,” Janzen said.
The paths that will be first in line for funding are:
▪ Redbud Path: Extend the current Redbud trail, which runs from I-135 to Woodlawn, to the east to 159th Street East, where it will link to a recently completed Andover trail.
▪ Hoover Bikeway: Sedgwick County Park to 29th Street North, to the site of the future Crystal Prairie Lake Park.
▪ East Bank Arkansas River Bikeway: From the Gander Mountain store at Kellogg to the Lincoln Street Bridge.
Council members Janet Miller and Jeff Blubaugh voted no.
Miller wanted to put the East Bank trail on the back burner because there’s already a parallel trail on the other side of the river. Instead, she wanted that funding to go to the Delano area.
The city already plans a multimillion-dollar redevelopment project in east Delano that will include bike paths. And Miller wants to extend that system west from Sycamore to the Seneca end of the Delano business district.
“It would make so much more sense” than a second path along the river, she said.
I don’t feel like it (the priority funding) is very fairly shared, I guess.
Jeff Blubaugh, Wichita City Council
Blubaugh wanted to take funding from the Hoover trail and spend it on the Prairie Sunset Trail. “I don’t feel like it (the priority funding) is very fairly shared, I guess,” he said.
Prairie Sunset, largely built by volunteers on an abandoned railroad right-of-way, runs from Garden Plain through Goddard and into west Wichita near the intersection of Kellogg and Maize Road.
Eventually, bike enthusiasts want to see that trail extended west across the Big Ditch and the I-235 freeway, where it could link to other trails and create a seamless route from Garden Plain to central Wichita.
Janzen said the East Bank Trail was recommended for funding because there’s increased pedestrian activity along both river banks.
In addition, he said, the city staff wants to have a trail there in time for an expected influx of visitors for the three-day period in March 2018 when Intrust Bank Arena will host first-round NCAA basketball tournament games.
He said the Hoover trail will be partially funded by a developer who is building in the area, and the city wants to take advantage of that opportunity.
The Prairie Sunset Trail extension will be a much larger project that will involve a substantial expense to upgrade bridges the railroad has left unmaintained, he said.
Blubaugh said he doesn’t think restoring the bridges will be as difficult or as expensive as city staff estimates.
He also said the developer’s contribution to the Hoover trail, about a fourth of the project cost, does not justify the 75 percent that will be borne by the city.
Janzen said other projects will receive funding if it’s not all used on the three priority trails.