'Big Ditch' Bridge Close To Reality

By: Alicia Myers Email
By: Alicia Myers Email

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Good news for more than 30,000 drivers on the west side of Wichita. Your commute time during rush hour could soon be shortened by 15 minutes, thanks to plans to build a bridge over the big ditch.

It's a route many dread taking during their daily commute, one that merges 13th and 21st streets' traffic onto Zoo Boulevard, eventually bottle-necking those attempting to connect to I-235.

"There were 3 separate studies done many years ago. All 3 studies looked at traffic counts, and said when traffic counts get to "X", you need a bridge over the floodway. When traffic counts get to "2X", you need two bridges over the floodway. We're 300% over "2X" today," said Jeff Longwell, Wichita Vice Mayor.

After reviewing the studies, the Federal Highway Administration has granted the city approval of an exit ramp from Northbound I-235, crossing over the 'big ditch', connecting with 13th street.

"There are a number of issues that need to be addressed, that include sound walls, where we may need to put in some traffic signals to break up traffic for the neighborhoods that need to get out onto 13th street, and included with that, will be some improvements at 13th and Ridge Road," said Longwell.

Those are improvements that could save motorists time.

"If you go through that at rush hour, you'll understand what that'll do for you," said John Van Walleghen, resident in area.

"We've heard from some traffic engineers, that just folks that want to continue through Zoo Blvd. after this is put in, may be able to cut their commute times by as much as 15 minutes in rush hour traffic," said Longwell.

Longwell says the change would cut time and traffic, without raising taxes.

"What we are planning on doing, is diverting some of that we've used as a funding source for Kellogg, the sales tax that's been in place since the 70s, we'll divert that to this bridge," said Longwell.

Some say the bridge won't solve the problem.

"It's going to jam it up somewhere else," said Terry Jones, resident in area.

"It needs to join 13th street on the east side. Once we get that done, then, we need to 21st street, and get that opened up for people," said Lowell Stukey, resident in area.

Others, who live in neighborhoods nearby, where drivers head for shortcuts, say it's long overdue.

"It gives the relief the westsiders need, and it doesn't impact our side of the I-235 ditch," said Van Walleghen.

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