Local bridge causing major detour opens early, $6.6 million under budget

ROSSVILLE, Kan. (KSNT) – After three months of closure and nearly two years of construction, the new Willard Bridge will open Monday.

The bridge is the only direct route from Willard to Rossville, otherwise causing a 22 mile detour for people who live in the area.

The 62-year-old bridge was closed in June for construction, after safety concerns arose from the public back in 2009.

The city initially planned on the bridge being completed by December but then changed the opening date to be on Sept. 9. However, it will now open Monday, 12 days ahead of that rescheduled date.

The replacement bridge is located just east of the previous structure and is expected to last nearly a century.

The bridge stands as the boundary between Shawnee and Wabaunsee counties.

People who live in the area said they are excited to no longer face the 22 mile detour the closing of the bridge caused.

“Rossville is usually about 3.5 miles and we go up the gravel roads and around, it’s 12 miles to the main street of Rossville going over the gravel roads, so naturally we’re happy about that,” said Willard resident Bob Viergever. “And saving the money too, that’s good.”  

The completion of the bridge not only finished early, but finished $6.6 million dollars under budget.

“We originally thought the total project cost was going to be about $24.7 million. Right now it looks like we’re going to finish the project at about $18.1 million. That was another reason why we wanted to get the project bid up and going when we did because we thought there was a very favorable construction climate in which we would get good bids,” Shawnee County public works director Tom Vlach said.

Vlach said the Shawnee County Commission will decide exactly what to do with the leftover more than $6.5 million dollars. He said there are several other infrastructure projects they’re hoping to use the money on.

A dedication ceremony for opening of the new Willard bridge will be at noon Monday. The ceremony will be held at the north side of the bridge.

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