Politics & Government

Work will start soon to fix Wichita’s worst freeway interchange

$65 million project will replace Broadway, I-235 interchange

Gov. Jeff Colyer talks about a planned $65 million project to replace I-235 bridges at Broadway and the Little Arkansas River north of Wichita. The project is the first phase of a larger plan to rebuild the North Junction at I-235 and I-135.
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Gov. Jeff Colyer talks about a planned $65 million project to replace I-235 bridges at Broadway and the Little Arkansas River north of Wichita. The project is the first phase of a larger plan to rebuild the North Junction at I-235 and I-135.

A project beginning soon will take the first steps toward fixing Wichita’s worst freeway interchange, the North Junction.

Gov. Jeff Colyer and Transportation Secretary Richard Carlson made the announcement Tuesday in the wind-swept parking lot of an abandoned gas station just south of I-235 and the Broadway bridge.

That bridge will be one of the first to be rebuilt as part of a $65 million traffic upgrade on and around north I-235.

That and other tweaks will set the stage for a major reconstruction of the North Junction, where Interstates 235 and 135 and state Routes K-254 and K-96 come in close proximity.

The interchange is an everyday headache for commuters who live in suburban cities north of town, including Park City and Valley Center.

About 100,000 cars and trucks a day use the interchange. It’s regularly jammed up at rush hours and averages four accidents a week, officials said.

“It’s time to give those hundred thousand Sedgwick County drivers . . . a new opportunity so those commuters and truckers who use these roads (will have) a better route, a safer route, to where they need to go,” Colyer said.

Rebuilding the North Junction is also an economic imperative, he said.

It’s a bottleneck in the I-135 corridor, which links Wichita to 1-70, the only east-west freeway crossing the state and a gateway for shipping manufactured goods to the west.

“Sedgwick County is absolutely essential and critical to the economic growth of the great state of Kansas,” Colyer said. “The manufacturing base that is here — not only in aircraft but in other industries — is absolutely important. This is one of the great growth hubs of the state and part of that growth is the ability to transport our goods across the United States.

The first phase of the North Junction rebuild consists of three projects designed to improve traffic flow from westbound I-235 to the interchange.

Broadway Bridge: This functionally obsolete bridge will be replaced with a new bridge that will be just south of the current one. Building alongside rather than at the same spot will allow the freeway to continue as two lanes each way through most of the construction project. The on- and-off ramps will also be replaced.

Arkansas River: Two existing bridges crossing the Little Arkansas River and Arkansas Avenue will be combined into one new single elevated bridge. The existing bridges are considered structurally inadequate.

Seneca Street: The Seneca bridge over I-235 will be removed. A section of 40th Street will be built to the west to create a route for traffic to cross the freeway at Meridian.

The projects will go out for bids in January. Construction is scheduled to begin in March and finish in November 2021.

The work is part of what is being called the Green Project. Future work — the Gold and Purple projects — are under preliminary design.

The two future projects will focus more heavily on the ramps for I-135, I-235, K-96 and K-254.

They are expected to cost a combined $190 million. Construction dates aren’t set.

Colyer said he expects the state to have the money to complete the projects.

He lost his bid for re-election in the Republican primary this year. He said he expects to hand his successor, Laura Kelly, a $900 million surplus when he leaves office in January.

Dion Lefler; 316-268-6527, @DionKansas
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