2010 Top 10 Nominee
“The reduction in noise and traffic congestion and improvements in the flow of train traffic are positively affecting the quality of our city’s environment.”
Wichita is the 51st largest city in the U.S. and an important hub for rail trade. Daily, 40 trains travelled on the Central Corridor tracks that bisected the downtown area, causing drivers as long as a 30-minute delay with each passing train. To reduce traffic congestion and the need for train whistles, the city developed a plan to separate some of the key crossing grades.
The $105 million project raised two miles of track above the roadway providing five new bridges to carry trains over the five arterial streets below. The restructured street crossings allow traffic to pass freely below the tracks, improving safety and reducing vehicle emissions. The design included a number of unique features. To reduce noise pollution, continuous welded rail on wood ties was used to eliminate the clacking sound of old jointed rail. Additionally, temporary mechanically stabilized earth retaining walls were constructed to keep the project within the confines of the existing right-of-way, significantly reducing project cost and environmental impact.
With environmental impacts at the forefront, design and construction elements featured reuse of existing materials, reduced water and energy consumption, and locally available construction materials. Aesthetic lighting employs light emitting diodes to reduce energy consumption and produce richer color.
For the first time in 100 years, street traffic and emergency vehicles crossed beneath the tracks on three arterial thoroughfares without being stopped by trains. The reduction in traffic congestion also lessens the number of accidents that had once been a major issue for the city of Wichita. On a larger scale, this improvement removed a major obstacle to economic development in downtown Wichita, sparking new growth that will benefit the entire city.