Kansas Transportation Secretary Julie Lorenz surveyed the scene Monday morning where what appeared to be tons of concrete crashed to the ground Saturday after plunging from the aging Polk-Quincy Overpass in downtown Topeka. No one was hurt.
KDOT was investigating why this happened, Lorenz said.
About 60 feet of the northern barrier wall along westbound Interstate 70 fell off the overpass into an empty parking lot Saturday afternoon, said Northeast Kansas and Region public affairs manager Kate Craft. of Topeka for the Kansas Department of Transportation.
The concrete landed just north of I-70 between S. Kansas Avenue and SW Jackson.
Lorenz inspected the damage on Monday accompanied by Burt Morey, KDOT assistant secretary and state transportation engineer.
“This project has been under design and review for years and years, but due to funding issues, we have had to do maintenance efforts, but there are plans to completely replace it,” Lorenz told the Capital-Journal.
One lane of westbound and eastbound traffic continued Monday to use I-70 in the affected area.
“We were doing a repair project,” Morey said. “That’s why we moved the traffic. We’ll keep them there until we can figure out what’s going on.”
“A new failure is not imminent” after the fall of the barrier wall
A KDOT bridge design team assessed the situation Saturday evening and expressed confidence that “further failure is not imminent,” Craft said in a press release issued at 11:40 p.m. Saturday and released. on KDOT’s Northeast Kansas Operations Facebook Page.
“KDOT maintenance crews will place dump trucks on the closed outer lane as a temporary measure to replace the barrier, allowing traffic to use the inner lane,” she said.
The section of wall fell at a time when work is underway to keep the viaduct viable until work begins in 2025 to replace and flatten the sharp curve of Interstate 70 near SE 3rd Street by moving north much of the freeway that currently runs to the west of this curve.
Officials discussed how best to handle traffic that would otherwise take I-70 through downtown Topeka while the project unfolds.
KDOT will assess the viaduct in more detail on Monday
On Monday, KDOT will further assess the situation and “begin to put in place permanent measures for westbound I-70 traffic and traffic on surface streets under the overpass,” Craft said.
“KDOT urges all motorists to be alert and obey warning signs when approaching and crossing a construction zone on a freeway.” she added. “To stay up to date on all road construction projects across Kansas, go to www.kandrive.org or call 5-1-1.”
The curve was created when KDOT in 1963 built the current overpass, an aging, elevated four-lane segment of I-70 that connects SW Polk and SE Quincy streets.
Kansas Governor Laura Kelly announced last July that as part of the Eisenhower Legacy transportation plan, the overpass project had been put “in the construction pipeline” for completion.
The project is expected to cost $234 million. The Topeka city government is to pay $20 million, with the state covering the rest.
Tim Hrenchir can be reached at [email protected] or 785-213-5934.