Payment for bypass project ‘in limbo’

By The Mercury

Wabaunsee County’s about-face on the Belvue Bridge has left Pottawatomie County in limbo about its level of financial participation in a proposed truck bypass route in the southeast portion of Wamego.

Meeting with representatives of Wamego Monday, commissioners said they were not yet prepared to commit to 50 percent funding of the proposed $4 million industrial/commerce route in Wamego.

“Instead of facing a $2.5-million bill it could be $10 to $12 million,” Commission Chairman Stan Hartwich said of the Belvue Bridge project. “We’re still in limbo now.”

If Pott County is forced to fund the majority of a new bridge, it could affect the commission’s financial participation in the Wamego project, Hartwich indicated.

“As far as committing to $2 million today, I’m not prepared to do that, but we’re going to participate in some way,” Hartwich said. “I think the three commissioners here are disappointed (the Wabaunsee County commissioners) changed their minds so drastically. They may be able to force us to do it (build a new bridge). I don’t think that’s right, that someone paying 14 percent can force someone else to pay 86 percent.”

State law says counties that share ownership of a bridge will pay for upkeep or replacement of the structure based on valuation. Based on current valuations, Pott County is responsible for 86.54 percent with Wabaunsee County liable for the remaining 13.46 percent. 

After voicing support for a $3 million polyester overlay for the deck of the Belvue Bridge, Wabaunsee County commissioners changed course Aug. 11 and voted in support of building a new bridge after meeting with about 30 business and property owners.

The property owners said a polyester overlay would require restricting the weight on the bridge and would preclude some vehicles, such as loaded grain trucks, from using it. Those property owners are scheduled to present their case to Pottawatomie County commissioners at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 8.

“If we don’t do anything, they could close it in a year,” Hartwich noted. “If we build a new bridge it could take four or five years before you can drive anything across it.”

An overlay would give the commissions an estimated 15-year window to find a more permanent solution while allowing “most vehicles” to use the bridge, Hartwich said.

Meanwhile, county commissioners asked Wamego representatives to come up with cost figures to partially design the proposed truck bypass route.

“I guess what I’d be interested in seeing is your numbers of what it’s going to take to get it to that 30 percent level,” Commissioner Pat Weixelman said.

Once the partial design cost is established, commissioners asked the city and county administrations to collaborate before the Wamego representatives return to the commission.

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