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Join turnpike's CEO watching Sunday's bridge blast online

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Count Michael Johnston, president and CEO of the Kansas Turnpike Authority, among those who will be following Sunday’s scheduled turnpike bridge blast online at LJWorld.com.

Explosions are scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Sunday, to drop a 250-ton stretch of original steel bridge structure along the turnpike onto a temporary sandbar below, along the east bank of the Kansas River. While spectators will be kept 1,000 feet from the blast, anyone with an Internet connection will be able to get an up-close view at LJWorld.com, where streaming video will be shown live.

Johnston plans to join the online crowd early Sunday afternoon, as he monitors communications from officials on the scene.

“I’ll call it up,” Johnston said.

The blast is the first of several planned along the turnpike’s original Kansas River bridges, built in 1954. The spans have been stripped of their concrete tops in preparation for the blasts. The first explosive demolition is set for 12:30 p.m. Sunday. The second, for an identical section on an adjacent original bridge, is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday. The remainder of the bridges, stretching west across the river, will be designated for demolition sometime in early December. Schedules for the blasts are considered tentative, as rain could force delays ranging from a few minutes to hours or even days, officials said.

“I hope it doesn’t rain,” Johnston said Thursday. “I hope it goes as planned.”

Johnston also is hoping that people adhere to the safety-first approach of the turnpike authority and its hired contractors. Onlookers are welcome to gather in Burcham Park — which is accessible from Second and Indiana streets — or elsewhere outside the 1,000-foot blast area, he said. Watching the video online — as he will Sunday — is another option, Johnston said.

“Safety first,” he said.

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