Why is this project needed?
After more than 60 years, there is significant deterioration on the viaduct (i.e., the bridge portion of this section of I-70). Furthermore, traffic volumes have increased, highway design criteria have changed and the area around the viaduct has undergone development. This project will improve safety with wider shoulders, a safer curve near 3rd Street and longer acceleration and deceleration lanes in certain areas.
How much will the project cost?
The project is currently estimated at more than $200 million.
Why did the project stop for several years?
Funding challenges caused design plans to be suspended indefinitely in 2017. However, the project has now been selected for inclusion in KDOT’s “IKE” Eisenhower Legacy Transportation Program. That significant funding opportunity will allow the project to move forward, in addition to $20 million pledged by the City of Topeka to support this project.
Will noise barriers be included in this project?
KDOT recently completed a noise study, and this project would not include noise barriers based on the findings of that study.
Why did the project team discard plans to include tunnels?
How does this project tie into the City of Topeka’s plans for bicycle and pedestrian connectivity along Kansas Avenue?
Kansas Avenue is part of the split diamond interchanges, handling traffic in both directions, so there is a traffic need for additional lanes through there. At the same time, the City of Topeka is planning more bicycle and pedestrian features in the Kansas Avenue area, including a grant-funded conversion of one southbound traffic lane to a two-way bicycle lane across the Kansas Avenue bridge. The project design team is working very closely with KDOT and City of Topeka to analyze how to get the best balance for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists in that area.
I understand the interstate will be three lanes starting at MacVicar Avenue. How far east will that go?
The three-lane section of I-70 will stretch between MacVicar Avenue and Topeka Blvd. Aside from that section, the interstate design currently includes only two lanes.
How much additional property will be required for this project? How much of it is considered commercial or residential?
The majority of these properties are business or commercial properties in the heart of the downtown Topeka industrial area. As an estimate, about 80 or 85 percent are commercial or industrial properties. The plans for property acquisition are still in process and will not be determined until we get the official plans for right-of-way. Our first priority will be negotiating with impacted property owners between Topeka Boulevard and Kansas Avenue, where the new viaduct is being built. We will identify those properties first and work with owners as quickly as possible to allow them time to relocate.
Will any historic properties be removed?
We have some older properties we are going to investigate, but there currently are not any classified historic properties that may hold up the path for this west side project.
Why is there a large separation between the lanes of I-70 through the viaduct?
We are building two lanes each direction across the viaduct, with the ability to expand that to three lanes each direction in the future if needed. That additional lane would go to the inside, hence the extra space for potential use in the future.
How much of I-70 will be closed during that second year and how will I access downtown?
The construction dates are still being finalized, but there will be a stretch from MacVicar to 6th Street that will need to close at some point in order to reconstruct I-70. While exact detour routes are still being determined, travel from Lawrence or Manhattan will likely involve an I-470 route through town. For those wanting to access downtown from the west side, possibilities include traveling MacVicar southbound to access 6th Street or 10th Street heading east. From the east side of town, 10th Street or 8th Street would be viable routes to access downtown.
What are the plans for aesthetics?
As part of the previous design process that stalled in 2015, we had a couple years of active community involvement in three different committees, and one of those committees was aesthetics. That aesthetics committee analyzed the look and texture for the new viaduct structures and which aesthetic elements would help make that an attractive section through downtown. These included elements on 6th Street, 8th Street and 10th Street bridges entering downtown (e.g., a structural steel arch to match those on Kansas Avenue). For this project, the aesthetic focus will likely remain solely on the viaducts and how they tie into design elements seen throughout downtown. The aesthetic committee’s recommendations are all still under consideration, with nothing finalized at this time.
What design elements will be below the viaduct?
There has been discussion of potentially utilizing the area beneath the future viaduct as open space, but that is an ongoing discussion between federal, state and local partners. Ultimately, it is still to be determined if and how this space could be utilized.
What is the plan with 2nd Street underneath the existing I-70 between Kansas Avenue and Topeka Avenue?
Second Street will remain open up to Jackson Street. The project team plans to remove the existing viaduct, patch in the holes in the existing Second Street where the piers are now, and then that roadway will remain open up to Jackson Street and closed from Jackson to the east.
Has consideration been given to making this section of I-70 a business route without viaducts, and rerouting the bulk of through traffic onto I-470?
The existing viaduct is traveled by 35,000 vehicles per day, and the section of I-70 between Topeka Boulevard and MacVicar Avenue sees more than 50,000 vehicles per day. Turning this section of I-70 into a business route would push the vast majority of traffic back onto U.S. 24 or I-470. Neither of those routes have the capacity to absorb the volume of traffic that is currently passing through Topeka, so this option was not considered for that reason.