Another setback for Pawnee bridge repairs

Work continues on the Pawnee bridge over the Arkansas River. (KSN Photo)
Work continues on the Pawnee bridge over the Arkansas River. (KSN Photo)

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Since August, the Pawnee bridge has been closed off, and it has been no stranger to complications.

“We got started not long into construction, got the bridge closed we had some barn swallows that decided to nest on the bridge,” recounted Wichita city engineer Gary Janzen.

The protected birds stopped work for a month until they could be moved.

However, this latest slowdown has bigger implications and a bigger price tag after severe cracking lead engineers to corroded steel pilings.

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This photo shows corroded steel pilings under the Pawnee Street bridge. (KSN Photo)

“We found that the steel foundation piling, which is really holding the bridge in place on each end of the abutment had corroded to the point where they were effectively gone in some areas.”

The city brought in bridge designers who confirmed the uniqueness of the situation.

“They had not seen or heard of this,” Janzen said, “we’re still not exactly sure what happened.”

While the city is researching what caused the issue, it means that the project won’t be finished for a bit longer than anticipated. Early on, the plan was for things to finish up by the end of 2016, now it’s looking like construction could last until late spring 2017. Ultimately, the change adds an additional million dollars to the cost of the project.

Janzen says the money will come from two other projects that will be delayed to work on the bridge at 15th Street and Harry Street.

“We had a couple of bridges in our capital improvement projects that we were going to start looking at design at for next year,” said Janzen “we’re taking funding from those projects for right now and using it for this. We will reprogram those in the next year, but they’re in reasonable shape. They need some rehabilitation work, but none of them are in peril.”

From a financial standpoint, this is the best time to work on the project. According to Janzen, while this work will bring the total price tag to around $3.4 million dollars, work to completely tear the bridge down and rebuild it would be between $5 and $7 million dollars.