Wichita’s Central Rail Corridor has been named one of America’s 10 best transportation projects and is now a finalist for two major awards.
The $105 million project, which eliminated a 100-year-old traffic problem in downtown Wichita, was named one of 10 finalists in the 2010 America’s Transportation Awards competition.
It emerged as a finalist from regional competitions that included 43 projects from 29 states. It is now in the running for two awards: the grand prize to be selected by a panel of judges, and the People’s Choice Award, which will be decided by popular vote. Online voting is under way and continues through Oct. 18.
Citizens are encouraged to cast a vote for the project by visiting the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) web site.
The project, which began in 2005 and was completed in 2009, raised two miles of railroad track above the roadway, providing five new bridges to carry trains over thoroughfares below. For the first time in a century, street traffic and emergency vehicles can cross beneath the tracks without being stopped by trains.
The project improves safety and reduces emissions from vehicles, which sometimes could be delayed for up to 30 minutes. It also removes a major obstacle to economic development in downtown Wichita.
“Our city is honored with this national recognition,” said Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer. “But the praise needs to be shared with the local visionaries who initiated the project, as well as our state and federal partners who helped make it possible.”
The project has had a dramatic impact on local commerce. In a letter to the Secretary of the Kansas Department of Transportation, Dave Burk, local developer and president of the Wichita Old Town Association, wrote:
“Old Town has greatly benefitted from the Wichita Central Corridor Railroad Grade Separation project. Travel to the destination has become more convenient and efficient, and the area once plagued with noise pollution from passing trains is now graced with the music coming from surrounding businesses and people interacting as they pass one another in the streets. The improvement removed a major obstacle to economic development in downtown Wichita, sparking new growth that will not only benefit Old Town, but the entire City. We are proud to have been a part of it.”
Program manager for the project was TranSystems, which oversaw the design and performed construction inspection activities. The designer-of-record was HNTB and the general construction contractor was Dondlinger & Sons Construction Co. of Wichita. The project was a joint effort of the City of Wichita and the Kansas Department of Transportation.
America’s Transportation Award is sponsored by AASHTO, AAA, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.