Limited access, 1-way traffic among challenges with Bel Aire road construction

BEL AIRE, Kan. (KWCH) – It is a project aimed at expanding a busy section of North Woodlawn from North Wichita to Bel Aire. But limited access to neighborhoods and one-way traffic are challenges that have created frustrations for homeowners and businesses.

On Wednesday, May 12, News spoke to people who live or work in the area near the Woodlawn stretch of 37th to 45th Streets and the City of Bel Aire about when the project could be complete.

Drivers operating the North Woodlawn route from Wichita to Bel Aire said the work zone has become a source of frustration due to delays and changing traffic patterns. With another phase of the project beginning this week, many are asking the city when work will be complete.

This work began in November 2021. Crews are working to add a turning lane, improve drainage, and add sidewalks. However, neighbors on either side of the street are struggling with restricted access to their homes.

Rachell Lewis is one of those neighbors.

“Everything adds an extra 10 minutes to get anywhere,” she said. “It’s more time, more fuel. It’s non-stop.”

Bus drivers who took their children to and from school also had to adapt.

“One (bus) goes to Stucky (middle school), one to Isley (traditional Magnet elementary school),” Lewis said. “I feel like their buses are later than ever this year because they have to go through all this construction work. They probably need to be strategic about picking up and dropping off kids.”

Beginning Thursday, traffic will shift from Woodlawn to the new side, but crews will have to tear up the other side. So traffic will continue to flow in one direction. In addition, traffic on 45th Street will only be switched from west to east. This phase is expected to last about two months.

Barring extended weather delays or supply issues, the City of Bel Aire says the Woodlawn expansion project should be completed either later this summer or in the fall.

Los Cunados is a restaurant on the corner of 45th and Woodlawn. Owner Hector Onate opened the doors months before construction began. Since then, traffic has decreased.

“When the project started, business went down sharply,” he said.

While he’s managed to keep the restaurant running, Onate said prolonged delays in road construction could further hurt his bottom line.

“It’s a small company. It’s hard,” he said.

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