Sedgwick County plans to renovate more bridges this year, including a heavily used bridge in south Wichita.
Commissioners this week could approve spending about $2.9 million for several new road, drainage and bridge projects, including repairing the roadway on the MacArthur Road bridge in south Wichita near K-15.
The projects would be on top of about $15 million in cash for road and bridge improvements approved in August.
“It’s a constant (pothole) patching problem for us,” said Jim Weber, the county deputy director for public works, about the MacArthur bridge. “It’s at a point where the structure and substructure is in very good condition. But the surface, the deck that you drive on, from traffic and so on, has deteriorated to the point where it needs to be redecked.”
Weber said the county probably will repair the pavement of the four-lane bridge two lanes at a time, meaning lane closures.
“It’ll be open the whole time, it just won’t have all the lanes,” Weber said.
The bridge over the Arkansas River is a major connector between south Wichita and Spirit AeroSystems, Weber said. Spirit is a major Wichita employer.
“This is a pretty big deal in terms of the Spirit workforce,” said Commissioner Jim Howell, whose district borders that part of the river.
If the road were not repaired, the bridge’s underbelly would suffer damage and the entire bridge would need to be replaced, Weber said. That could cost between $6 million and $7 million.
“At this point, if we let it go, it starts to deteriorate really fast and you lose all that investment,” Weber said.
It is unknown when the bridge project would start and how long it would take if it were approved by county commissioners on Wednesday.
Cash for roads
The MacArthur bridge project is part of a larger spending decision in front of Sedgwick County commissioners.
Commissioners will vote on a $2.86 million update to the county’s capital improvement plan. The list features six bridge projects, paving one township road north of Valley Center and miscellaneous drainage projects around the county.
The list is on the consent agenda for Wednesday’s commission meeting. Those items typically pass unanimously and with little discussion.
But funding county roads and bridges proved to be one of the largest flashpoints of the 2016 budget process in August.
One change in the 2016 recommended budget was setting aside $3.29 million in cash for reserve projects. In years past, the county created a $4 million list of projects funded through debt by issuing bonds.
Some commissioners thought it was necessary to shrink county debt, while others thought it forced the county to make a series of cuts to health, culture and recreation. Those cuts faced opposition in the county’s online and public budget hearings.
The budget passed with $3.29 million set aside in cash for projects that were unspecified until Friday.
The new cash reserve will have $430,000 left over for future projects if this list of improvements is approved for funding.
One specific project from the county’s wish list was postponed, the reconstruction of a stretch of 183rd Street West between 23rd and 39th Street South. That’s southeast of Goddard.
“We basically talked about delaying it as a project that would be nice to be able to do, but it is not that high priority,” said Commissioner Karl Peterjohn, whose district includes that area.
Some neighborhood opposition convinced the county to take up the $1.1 million project later, Weber said.
“The neighborhoods started to get concerned because the project that we had planned had tried, to the extent possible, to take out some of these trees that are too close to the road,” Weber said.
Still to be decided are the five miles of gravel roads – one mile in each commissioner’s district – that will be paved next year. Commissioners will choose those miles later this year, Weber said. Also planned is $9.25 million of preventive maintenance around the county.
Most bridge and road projects in 2016 will be in rural southern and western Sedgwick County.