Two decades after planning began and two years after construction started, two flyover bridges over the Big Ditch on I-235 will open Friday.
Traffic snarls near Zoo Boulevard that have plagued I-235 in west Wichita for years prompted the $35 million project.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony is set for 1 p.m. Friday. Shortly after that, cars can begin driving on the bridges that connect I-235 and 13th Street, said Tom Hein, a spokesman for the Kansas Department of Transportation.
“This is going to take a lot of pressure off the Zoo Boulevard exit,” he said.
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One flyover bridge allows northbound I-235 traffic to exit to westbound 13th Street. Eastbound 13th traffic can use the other bridge to go south on I-235.
Previously, there weren’t any exit or entrance ramps between Central and Zoo.
Work began in late 2012, long after the city of Wichita 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 interchanges. Traffic volume for the area is about 35,000 vehicles daily, officials have said.
The bridges actually open about a week ahead of what was required by the contract, Hein said.
Crews will continue to do some work over the winter, mostly removing temporary buildings and cleaning up the site. Grass seeding will be done in the spring, Hein said.