Letters to the Editor

Costly bridge

November 1, 2011


To the editor:

I noted in the front page Journal-World Oct. 28 story by reporter Mark Fagan that the 23rd Street bridge between Haskell and Barker is to be replaced. The project is estimated to take six months and will provide a bridge for five lanes of 23rd Street traffic.  The scope of the project surprised me in this era of governmental austerity. My concern is that all viable options be explored before contracting the project.

The original purpose of the existing bridge was to provide a viaduct or overpass over the Santa Fe trackage between Lawrence and Ottawa. The hump or elevated roadway over the railway was common practice at the time.

The trackage is now gone and the new bridge will mainly allow passage of the walking trail to keep the south half-mile or so of it from being isolated. This could be nicely accommodated by an 8-foot square reinforced concrete culvert at much less construction cost. If the usage of the existing street which passes under 23rd is sufficient to justify continuing it, that could be done with two 12-foot square culverts. No matter what plan is used, there is some surface drainage (storm runoff), which must be managed. Use of the culverts would eliminate most of the hump in 23rd Street, shorten construction traffic inconveniences and probably lower costs. 


Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 5 months ago

"probably lower costs."?

"The original purpose of the existing bridge was to provide a viaduct or overpass over the Santa Fe trackage between Lawrence and Ottawa."

The right of way at that location is private property, and it is owned by Santa Fe.

So it all depends upon what price Santa Fe will be willing to sell their right of way for.

Perhaps the city should offer a reasonable, that is, a rather high price for it. There's not much doubt that an offer of many tens of thousands of dollars would be laughed at.

Several hundreds of thousands of dollars would be more reasonable. In fact, you could make a good case a few million dollars would be reasonable.

In that case, purchasing the right of way would cost more than the proposed bridge.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 5 months ago

There's another factor to consider, and that's that it is most likely that Santa Fe wouldn't consider a sale contract at all. Instead, they might offer a lease that would almost certainly contain the stipulation that if they made the decision to reopen the rail line at a later date, the city will need to get their road out of the way. At the city's expense, of course. And, only a very limited amount of time would be allowed to get that road closed.

Santa Fe is very unlikely to sell their right of way permanently, but perhaps they would be willing to lease it for a period of time, subject to cancelation at any time at their discretion.

Brian Hall 6 years, 5 months ago

Something's been bothering me since reading about this story a couple days ago. People keep saying that the trail is still owned by the railroad. The Douglas County property map clearly shows the trail, from 11th to the city limits near 31st is owned by the City of Lawrence. So Santa Fe has already permanently given up its right-of-way for the trail.

Besides, if Santa Fe, for whatever reason, wanted to reopen this line, they would have to rebuild most of the grades between Lawrence and Baldwin and purchase the line from Baldwin to Ottawa from the Midland Railway.

Wadde 6 years, 5 months ago

Until now the bridge and the lanes are complex which hinders stimulation of outside interest Of Lawrence it's the most ignorant design thanks to the city it will ignite some interest.

formerfarmer 6 years, 5 months ago

Thank you, bhall87, Sante Fe abandoned the right of way years ago to Baldwin. The abandoned the right of way under the bridge when the track was torn out and the walkway was built. They no longer need the bridge, they need to lower the roadway on the highway and build a pedestrian tunnel.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 5 months ago

I don't know about this particular rail-to-trail, but typically, the railroad does not abandon the right-of-way when trails are built.

lunacydetector 6 years, 5 months ago

mr. duncan has very reasonable questions a hard hitting journalist needs to follow-up on with kdot, sante fe, the city and perhaps the county. i'm interested if any hard hitting questions get raised. scott rothschild could add to his hit piece series on brownback - that should be incentive enough.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 5 months ago

Why do you think that the state would spend the extra money to preserve right-of-way if it's been abandoned?

lunacydetector 6 years, 5 months ago

maybe they don't want to anger the lawrence bicyclists. maybe the city is the driving force since we are putting money into this bridge.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 5 months ago

Blocking the trail with the new construction isn't an option, (although I'm sure that you'd be OK with that just for purposes of spite.) But maintaining it could probably accomplished with something less than maintaining a rail right-of-way would. The 8' culvert idea described above is probably not adequate, though.

FlintlockRifle 6 years, 5 months ago

Howard, you get my vote, I will put you on the next ballet, you came up with a really good idea, they have a tunnel on west 6th street, works great

MattressMan 6 years, 5 months ago

I would imagine (hope) KDOT wants to leave vehicle access under the bridge to allow Haskell and for the short term Dg Cty PW traffic easier access to westbound 23rd.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 5 months ago

This is a question for attorneys to settle who have a great deal more knowledge about public and private property rights than any of us have.

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