Archive for Wednesday, June 26, 2002

What to do with the tunnels

June 26, 2002

Whether the tunnels found running under part of downtown Bonner Springs are linked to the Underground Railroad, preserving the tunnels is significant for the city.

Anytime a city can learn more about its history it is an added dividen for the community. Preserving one's history is better than destroying it or letting it go to ruin. Yes, sometimes it's better financially to tear down a building or structure that's unsafe, but for the sake of future residents, you don't want to wipe away all remnants of the city's past.

These tunnels also might help the city bring about the addition of a riverfront park.

A hurdle the city has faced with building a park along the Kansas River is how to get across the Union Pacific Railroad tracks that run perpendicular to Front Street. The city would have to look at either building a vehicle bridge, which is expensive, or build a pedestrian bridge, which is not cheap either.

Yet, with the discovery of two tunnels that run from the river under Front Street to the downtown area, the city should look at using them as a way to access a riverfront park.

It would allow the community to see a piece of Bonner Springs history, especially since officials speculate that the tunnels are about 100 years old. It would also be a unique attraction that would make Bonner Springs standout among other metropolitan cities.

An entrance could be constructed on Front Street similar to a subway entrance, allowing access to a riverfront park without having to worry about road and railroad traffic.

The downside to using the tunnels is safety structural and physical.

First, are the tunnels large enough and structurally sound enough for pedestrian traffic. Also, would it cost the city too much money to divert the storm drainage water that runs through the tunnels, and would the tunnels have to meet current state and federal regulations for public attractions?

The cost to upgrade the structure of the tunnels might make it cheaper to build a pedestrian bridge. However, this doesn't mean the tunnels would not be an interesting historical attraction that could anchor a riverfront park.

Second, there is the criminal element to consider. Would the tunnels attract the wrong type of people? Would the tunnels become an element the police and the city would have to monitor constantly? Also, would this expose the tunnels to graffiti and other types of damage?

There's no easy answer to these questions, but they are a few the Bonner Springs City Council should consider if it plans on using the tunnels or in planning a riverfront park.

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