Shawnee County Will Not Fund Costly KTA Bridge Project

By: Sarah Plake Email
By: Sarah Plake Email

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- The Shawnee County commission Thursday morning decided half a million dollars was too much for an 11-foot sidewalk on a bridge across the Kansas Turnpike.

The project proposal raised a lengthy discussion, and Shawnee County will not be a partner with the Kansas Turnpike Authority in the Wittenberg Bridge project.

The motion to go forward died in the commission meeting for lack of a second.

The Kansas Turnpike Authority partnership would cost the county $561,860 to add a sidewalk to the Wittenberg Road bridge.

KTA is rebuilding the bridge constructed in the 1950s with or without Shawnee County's help, but the county's money would cover an 11-foot walkway to connect the Deer Creek and Lake Shawnee trails.

Director of Parks and Recreation urged commission to fund the project, and said it is valuable in more than one way.

"They're critical to the transportation component, they're critical to the health aspects, they're a tremendous portion of what we do as a department," Bertels said.

Commissioner Bob Archer said the sidewalk is too expensive, and Commissioner Kevin Cook also had doubts.

"We could hypothetically be looking at a trail that ends at Deer Creek, a trail that picks back up at Lake Shawnee and a bridge in the middle with no connecting trail between the two that has a walkway across?"

Bertels answered that not having the sidewalk hurts chances to get state grant money for the trail extension.

"Replacing this bridge is key for us to be able to go south with this trail in the least expensive and most appropriate way," Bertels added.

Commissioner Shelley Buhler supported the project.

"The bridge is a one-time expense with long-term benefits," she said. "The bridge is only going to be built once every 60 or 70 years and we have this opportunity."

The attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge told the commisson 90 Sheriff's officers had not gotten a raise in four years.

That, plus other arguments, led to a 2 to 1 vote against the half-million dollar sidewalk.

The Kansas Turnpike Authority will go on without the county's help.

631 SW Commerce Pl. Topeka, Kansas 66615 phone: 785-272-6397 fax: 785-272-1363 email:
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