By Travis Mounts
HAYSVILLE – Dignitaries, a marching band and a convertible car all were part of Monday afternoon’s dedication of the new pedestrian bridge on Haysville’s northwest edge.
The pedestrian bridge runs alongside Meridian Avenue and across the MS Mitch Mitchell Floodway, also known as “The Big Ditch.” It has been a wish-list item for local leaders for more than a decade. Construction finally began in early 2019, and it opened to traffic very recently. The pedestrian bridge connects Haysville to south Wichita, and lets walkers and bikers easily access trails in both cities.
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The bridge has a plaque recognizing Tim Norton, who began the early discussions in 2007 that led to construction of the pedestrian bridge. Norton was present on Monday with three generations of his family.
“They represent why I’m so passionate about our community,” Norton said.
He recalled the construction of the road bridge. It was designed to handle four lanes of traffic back when Meridian was a two-lane road. That originally allowed room for pedestrians, but when Meridian was expanded to four lanes, pedestrians were left with two options: cross the Big Ditch on Meridian in an unsafe manor, or go east one mile to Seneca. Norton said he had given rides to numerous people over the years who were walking on the Meridian bridge.
“I realized it wasn’t safe,” he said.
Meridian has become in important corridor for Haysville, especially as housing additions were built on the city’s west edge. The street connects the city with Campus High School, which sits just a mile north of the bridge over the floodway.
“It is very important as a connecting link for our community,” Norton said.
Haysville Mayor Bruce Armstrong noted that the bridge puts the finishing touches on improvements that had been made on both sides of the floodway.
“We had sidewalks that led to nowhere. Safety was a big concern,” Armstrong said. He noted that an original effort to add a pedestrian bridge was sidelined after original bids were too high. That delayed the project for several years.
The project became a reality thanks in large part to $2.7 million in federal funding that was secured through the Wichita Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. Haysville city leaders, seeing the importance of the pedestrian bridge, contributed $137,000. Sedgwick County added another $548,000.
Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O’Donnell, who replaced Norton as the Second District commissioner, talked about the importance of the project and the role that Norton played in getting the project going.
“Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your perserverance. This isn’t just for the City of Haysville. It’s for the entire region and the community,” he said. “This is about strengthening our community. Because of this bridge, Haysville and Wichita will be more connected. We all need to be connected.
“Commissioner Norton wasn’t just a strong supporter of this project, he started it. Tim not only had a vision for Haysville, he became Mr. Haysville.”