Leavenworth County bridge work limits routes crossing I-70
If it seems a little tougher these days to move across Interstate 70 in Leavenworth County, it’s not just in your imagination.
Four bridges over I-70 are closed across the county while the Kansas Turnpike Authority replaces them, leaving the county with just one paved road that crosses the interstate: County Road 1, or 222nd Street, which also serves as an interchange with I-70 south of Tonganoxie.
The bridges being replaced, all of which are expected to be closed for at least six months, are those on 142nd Street near Bonner Springs; County Road 2 (or 158th Street) south of Basehor; County Road 25 (or 207th Street) between Tonganoxie and Linwood; and 238th Street, a gravel road that crosses the interstate twice near the rest area northeast of Lawrence.
While speaking at the Basehor Chamber of Commerce meeting Thursday at Community National Bank, county public works director Mike Spickelmier said KTA’s decision to replace all the bridges at once was a matter of timing, on two different counts.
First, all the bridges were built more than 50 years ago when I-70 was constructed in the mid-1950s, and they’re nearing the end of their lifespan as safe structures. That also means they were built with 1950s traffic patterns in mind, Spickelmier said.
“I guarantee you when the bridges over the Turnpike were built 50 years ago, there were not nearly the number of people living in Leavenworth County that there are now,” he said.
The other reason to replace all the bridges right now, he said, is that contractors are willing to complete infrastructure projects for much less money than they would have accepted a few years ago, giving the state an opportunity to save on costs.
“We’re getting bids now, with the economic state of this nation, that are so much better than what we were getting when we were booming,” Spickelmier said.
After a 2007 interstate bridge collapse in Minneapolis, Minn., brought bridge maintenance to the nation’s attention, he said, public works departments across the country are replacing aging bridges.
“People talk about the declining infrastructure of the country, and it’s real,” Spickelmier said.
He said county officials know the 158th Street bridge closing will cause a great deal of north-south traffic to divert to 166th Street, a gravel road. In anticipation of that traffic, the county widened the road, added more rock and increased maintenance. But the county will have trouble maintaining that road if it gets anything close to the 2,000 cars that were crossing the 158th Street bridge every day, he said.
“Anything more than 300 cars a day on a gravel road is really a lot of traffic,” Spickelmier said.
He said the county may post additional signs to slow traffic on the 166th Street bridge, which is narrow and could present safety risks.
Also speaking about transportation issues at the meeting was Jim Pickett, an engineer for the Kansas Department of Transportation.
Pickett filled in Chamber members on some details of KDOT’s planned construction of a traffic signal on at 158th Street and U.S. Highway 24-40 on the edge of Basehor, a project planned for 2012.
The project will include the construction of a left-turn lane on southbound 158th Street and an extension of the left-turn lane on westbound U.S. 24-40. The signal will be synchronized with the existing light at 155th Street, Pickett said, to provide safety at the intersection without greatly slowing down travel times.
“It needs to be a corridor where you can get from one end to the other without undue delay,” Pickett said.