The city will likely close the Amidon Avenue Bridge to replace it

City engineers plan to move forward with their original decision to completely close the Amidon Avenue Bridge for at least 14 months to complete a $7.5 million replacement project.

Construction will likely begin in September on the four-lane bridge, which spans the bend in the Big Arkansas River between 13th and 21st streets and is crossed by more than 16,500 vehicles daily.

The District 6 Advisory Board and Wichita City Council, both of which previously approved the closure, will be asked to reaffirm their vote before plans are finalized.

Engineers considered several alternatives that would have preserved one or two lanes of traffic while increasing the price of the project and extending construction.

The bridge connects residential neighborhoods south of the bridge with key services at the 21st and Amidon intersection, including five grocery stores, four pharmacies, a DMV office, a fire station, a workforce center, two health care and more than a dozen restaurants.

The options were reassessed after area residents and business owners raised concerns about the economic and public safety implications of the disruption.

The city held an information meeting on the bridge on March 24, which was attended by about 100 people. Engineers reviewed options and listened to public feedback.

“We didn’t vote, but I’m sure we’ve heard generally, broadly, the belief that we should go down this road, get the project started this fall, wrap it up, and get it over with,” the deputy director said. of Public Works and Utilities, said Gary Janzen.

Engineers say keeping a traffic lane open throughout the replacement of the aging bridge would increase the cost to $10.2 million and increase the time to completion to 23 months. Preserving a northbound and southbound traffic lane would drive the cost above $11 million and stretch the project out to at least 25 months.

The city also considered a $4.2 million option to repair the existing bridge while keeping two lanes open, but engineers say the rehabilitated bridge will still need to be replaced within 10 years.

Janzen said a full closure of the bridge is the only option that would allow construction to begin this fall.

“If we don’t close the bridge, it will take us longer to complete the design and clearance, and we’ll have to wait a year and start next fall,” Janzen said.

He said upcoming bridge construction in the area, including work at the North Junction and East of Kellogg, could make it difficult to find a willing contractor if the project is postponed.

“We’ve contacted and spoken to our bridge contractors, and we think if we wait a year to bid, there’s a good chance we won’t get any bids on the project, so that’s a problem,” Janzen said. .

Emergency response and diversions

One of the major concerns expressed by residents about the prospect of a full bridge closure was that it could significantly increase Wichita Fire Department response times by cutting off access to Wichita Firehouse 7, which is just northeast of 21st and Starch on Coolidge.

The city is now planning to install a temporary WFD satellite station on 13th Street that can accommodate a motor.

The fire department is considering several possible properties for the location of the satellite, which Janzen said he is confident will be operational by September if the closure is finalized.

Sedgwick County EMS said the construction would not affect their response times.

For motorists, the city offers a detour route that sends vehicles east on 13th or 21st Street to Broadway before returning west to Amidon. In normal traffic, the proposed detour takes 10 minutes by car, compared to 2 minutes from 13 to 21 on the bridge.

A westbound detour to West Street would take nearly 6 minutes by car and an eastbound detour to Waco would take nearly 8 minutes. Janzen said the Broadway detour is convenient for most drivers.

“There will be more traffic going downtown and coming that way than there would be from the west, especially because you don’t go too far west and a lot of neighborhoods are cut off by I-235,” he said.

For people trying to access businesses north of the bridge from 13th Street, the city plans to post signs along West and Waco pointing the way.

A city bus diversion route from residential areas south of the bridge will meander east on the 13, north to Meridian, west across the 17 to the west and east the 21.

bus detour.png
Map of the municipal bus detour planned for the closure of the Amidon Avenue bridge. Courtesy of the City of Wichita

This story was originally published May 4, 2022 4:25 a.m.

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Matthew Kelly joined The Eagle in April 2021. He covers business and development in the Wichita area. You can contact him at 316-268-6203 and [email protected]