Jeff Fluhr says when you walk through the tunnel under the Douglas Avenue railroad bridge, “it crunches when you walk.”
“And it’s not because you’re walking on gravel,” he adds. “It’s because you’re walking in deposits from the pigeons.”
Fluhr, president of Wichita Downtown Development Corp., successfully urged the City Council on Tuesday to approve spending $2.1 million dollars to renovate the bridge, the key pedestrian gateway between the Intrust Bank Arena area and the bars and clubs of Old Town.
The project will address the pigeon poop, pedestrian safety and aesthetics of the railroad bridge, said City Engineer Gary Janzen, who presented the plan to the council.
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Eventually, the project will include replacement of rusting steel girders, cracking concrete and other structural repairs.
But it starts with pigeon poop, paint and lighting, he said.
Janzen showed the council several options to prevent the birds from roosting under the bridge, including anti-bird wires, netting and add-on “bird slopes” to eliminate flat surfaces where pigeons can nest.
The paint scheme will be white on the concrete and “iron red” on the metal girders. The walls will be solid white, he said.
The plan envisions light bars at both ends of the undercrossing and lighting on the ceiling underneath the bridge. At present, the only light is what filters in from either end of the passage, making it dark and unwelcoming at night, Janzen said.
Guard rails will be added to keep pedestrians from stumbling into the car traffic lanes that go under the bridge, he said.
The major structural problem is the cracking outer walls of the overcrossing, Janzen said. He said the BNSF railroad, which owns the bridge, will probably pay for some of that at some point.
However, he said, the railroad is only going to care about fixing the eastern half of the bridge where its trains run. The west side of the bridge is part of the Great Plains Transportation Museum and the track is used for a permanently parked train display.
“Even at that, I think we can get them (BNSF) to fund some of the structural repairs,” he said.
Janzen said the repairs and improvements of everything but the outer walls will cost $1.4 million. The remaining $700,000 will be set aside and used to do the wall repair when the city and railroad reach a deal on funding, he said.