A KDOT project will expand a sidewalk on the northside of a K-18 bridge over Wildcat Creek in partnership with the City of Manhattan.
The state project will replace the two bridges into one, install longer turn lanes onto Poliska and raise the bridge two to three feet — which is approximately four feet higher than the creek level during the 2018 flash flood. It was originally planned for 2015, but budget cuts caused multiple delays.
The state agreed to widen the sidewalk beyond the standard plan on the bridge from six to 10 feet and install a road-side guardrail along the walkway, though the $69,000 pricetag for those additions will be fully the city’s responsibility. The sidewalk would also serve as a connector on the Linear Trail network and Public Works Director says this has been a high priority for the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Council since its inception.
Resident Joe Knopp questioned the necessity versus the cost, saying he’s never heard of anyone being injured walking along Fort Riley Boulevard.
“I don’t know what the reason for it is, maybe it’s just pretty,” says Knopp. “But $70,000 for pretty to me, I need to have you explain it.”
Ott says the enhancements better protect pedestrians, bicyclists and joggers while allowing for multiple uses and that it’s not unlike what the city is doing on other streets like Kimball and Casement.
“It provides more comfort, a better level of service, connectivity to existing trails and protection.”
Ott showed images of current conditions at the road, saying pedestrians have beaten a path on the unpaved surface not far from 45 mile per hour traffic. The state will also install power connections on and below the bridge in order for the city to install lighting at a future project.
“For years, I have watched people walking along Fort Riley Boulevard and that footpath,” says Morse. “So this is the opportunity while we’re doing these bridges and the Poliska area to make a difference there.”
Mayor Pro Tempore Usha Reddi says with higher numbers of people begin using trails, she thinks the project will be a good investment long-term. Commissioner Wynn Butler concurred, noting that they have a funding source from the Recreation and Trails Sales Tax and won’t impact property tax.
“That’s just a classic there when you look at that beaten trail,” says Butler. “People say well, where should sidewalks go — it’s where trails appear and sometimes you should put sidewalks in after the trails appear.”
Commissioner Jerred McKee also said that making it easier and encouraging people to walk or bike would reduce road wear and tear and maintenance costs.
The city is also tasked with diverting Linear Trail as well as a water main out of the state’s right of way before the project goes to bid in March 2020. The estimated work time is 18 to 24 months and will impact traffic.