Hutchinson City Council voted Tuesday to award a design contract for the reconstruction of the north end of the Woodie Seat Freeway that includes single-lane carriageways connecting to a single roundabout on Avenue A.
The joint contract with WSP USA and JEO Consulting Group for $448,230 includes studying alternatives for the construction of an underpass at Avenue B, where the existing bridge will be removed.
But he does not include the design of this passage in the plans. A separate fee would be negotiated for this after a decision on how to proceed is made.
As part of its agreement, the contractors must hold at least two meetings with the public to discuss the crossing before recommending to the municipal council the course of action. The contract requires that a bilingual representative of the contractor attend these meetings and that presentation material be provided in English and Spanish.
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As originally conceived, the project called for Avenue B to be closed at Woodie Seat as the road will descend from the Avenue C bridge to Avenue A and an earth embankment for the roadway will be constructed.
Residents living in the area, known as the Southwest Bricktown neighborhood, opposed the closure, so the council called for options to be considered.
The options the contractor will now explore for Avenue B include:
- Closure of the road as proposed and construction of lighted sidewalks up to Avenue C;
- Installation of a pedestrian crossing under Woodie Seat at Avenue B, or;
- Construct a new underpass for vehicles and pedestrians that would be smaller and lower than the existing underpass.
City staff had previously estimated that completing the study on the Avenue B crossing alone would cost approximately $60,000. Combining it with the pavement design contract will reduce that estimate by $15,000 to $20,000, Peterson told the council.
This will also allow the pavement design to continue, rather than being delayed pending a separate study.
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No additional debate in council
At Tuesday’s meeting, there was no further council discussion of the options previously presented, with council agreeing to proceed with the recommended design city staff, including the roundabout.
Councilwoman Sara Bagwell asked if a tunnel could create flooding issues and if it could be similar to the railway bridge over the Carey Park Causeway.
City Engineer Jeff Peterson said drainage would be part of the design and it could look like the Carey Park crossing.
“We have to take the bandage off at some point,” Bagwell said. “I’m just glad we’re taking a step forward.”
Councilor Greg Fast, who represents this ward, and Councilor Steve Garza, who represents the southeast, have asked to be included in meetings between city staff and project engineers so they can better understand the issues behind any recommendation.
“I always said I wanted more lighting, sidewalks and improvements for this area,” Fast said. “It’s a compromise. It’s a step in the right direction.”
South West Bricktown resident Cecilia Pena thanked council for “taking the time to listen to our concerns” and said she agreed with Fast that it was a good compromise.
“All we wanted all this time was a compromise,” she said. “You heard that, and it happened.”
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The contract calls for the company to complete the “Avenue B Access Study” and present concept plans to city council by October, with design plans ready by November 2023 and the project launched in January 2024.
Officials previously estimated the cost of demolishing the Avenues A and B bridges, installing the traffic circle and repaving the entire route at $4.1 million.
Council last month agreed to proceed separately with repairs to Avenues C, D and F bridges, including repaving, new curbs and some drainage improvements from Avenue C south to the River Bridge. .
These repairs, financed from the 2023 budget, will also cost several million.
The Woodie Seat Highway was built in 1958 by the Kansas Department of Transportation. In 2005, KDOT changed the alignment of K-96, redirecting traffic to Woodie Seat. Around this time, the City of Hutchinson became responsible for funding and managing the maintenance of the highway north of the Arkansas River and its associated infrastructure.
The city has been discussing the project for more than four years, with the initial effort focused on securing federal highway dollars to pay for the majority of the work.
However, the city’s request for those dollars failed to secure federal funding for three consecutive years. Given the continuing deterioration of the pavement, the city council then redirected its efforts towards carrying out the work itself and applying for state subsidies.
Plans submitted for federal grants, based on a state-commissioned city study that also explored reducing traffic accidents at the intersection with Avenue A, included a pair of roundabouts. at-grade points, one where the roadway intersects with Avenue A and the other at the intersection of Avenue A and Adams Street. The estimated cost of the project, however, was $11 million.
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After it became apparent that the city would have to pay for the work, city staff considered eliminating one of these roundabouts to cut costs. Engineers have indicated that it will work and may still qualify for state subsidies, which is the plan for the future.
The council also had other options to consider, including the road ending at Avenue A in a T-intersection, with single or two-lane carriageways, as well as demolishing the entire freeway or repairing it as ‘she exists.
The costs of all of these options were higher, and studies indicated that the wait time for motorists at a T-junction would be significantly higher.
The railroads that would be affected by the removal of the overhead crossings and the South Hutchinson City Council opposed the tearing of the roadway.