Special Reports

March 1, 2014

Traffic projects will ease commutes on west side, around metro area

Relief from traffic snarls that have plagued I-235 and its interchanges in west Wichita for years is almost here.

Relief from traffic snarls that have plagued I-235 and its interchanges in west Wichita for years is almost here.

Construction of two flyover bridges over the Big Ditch, which will create interchanges on 13th Street, is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014, city traffic engineer Gary Janzen said.

Work on the $35 million project began in late 2012 – long after the city approved a feasibility study in 1994.

As development on Wichita’s west and northwest sides continued to boom in the 1990s, so did the traffic problems – especially at the Zoo Boulevard interchanges. Traffic volume for the area is 35,000 vehicles daily, Janzen said.

This project is expected to bring relief by putting additional interchanges between Central and Zoo, allowing traffic to get off I-235 and travel west and east on 13th.

Sometime in April, I-235 will be closed two weekends – one for southbound, one for northbound – for placement of bridge girders across the highway, Janzen said.

Snowstorms in early February caused some delays in the work, so the date for those closures could be pushed back. Last summer’s heavy rains created fast-moving high water in the Big Ditch, which also slowed construction.

“But by and large, the work has gone very well,” Janzen said. “There haven’t been any major glitches.”

While one major project is ending this year, another one is beginning on East Kellogg.

The $160 million project continues Kellogg’s expansion to a six-lane freeway, stretching it another mile and making Webb Road an overpass. The Kansas Turnpike interchanges on Kellogg just west of Webb also will be reconstructed.

But don’t get in a hurry to see it finished. It’s not scheduled to be completed until 2019.

Sedgwick County’s infrastructure work this year will include widening of 135th Street West from K-42 to 71st Street South. That will be followed up in 2015 by expanding 135th to 103rd Street South.

“That will take us all the way into the heart of Clearwater,” said Jim Weber, the county’s public works deputy director.

A bridge replacement on 103rd Street West isn’t a major project, but it will create some traffic detours for those going to a Girl Scouts camp in the area.

The bridge being replaced is half-mile south of 71st Street South on 103rd, which is near the entrance of Starwoods Outdoor Center. Work is scheduled to begin this spring and to be completed by the end of the year.

The county is expected to spend $18.4 million on roads this year, Weber said. He noted the money comes from a variety of sources, including federal and local.

About half of that amount will go for preventive maintenance, he said. Bridge work is expected to cost $3.75 million.

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