New push aims to cut down on unpaved roads in Wichita neighborhoods

Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 7:57 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - They’re a common sight in the county, but some neighborhoods in the heart of Wichita still have unpaved roads. There’s a push to change this, especially on the city’s south side where the majority of the city’s unpaved roads can be found. As Congress closes in on President Biden’s infrastructure plan, Wichita city leaders believe federal funding may be available to help.

Becky Meairs is one south Wichita homeowner who lives in a neighborhood where the blacktop ends and clouds of dust linger.

“I feel like nobody cares about the roads. We’re the last people,” Meairs said.

The city expects to spend more than $10 million on road repairs next year, but Wichita City Council member Jeff Blubaugh said the budget is aimed at preserving paved roads and does not include dirt roads.

Meairs is among area homeowners who feel ignored.

“I feel like they don’t look at our roads, that they would have ot save money in the long run versus sending a road grader out here,” she said.

Paving the roads would require property owners to gather signatures from 51 percent of the neighborhood and accept tax increases.

“South Wichita has been identified as the biggest area in all of Wichita that has the most residential on the streets, and it continually folds,” Wichita City Council member Jared Cerullo, who represents the area, said.

He said many can’t afford to pay for their streets like the city typically requires.

To save taxpayers money, city leaders are looking at alternative options.

“I think President Biden’s infrastructure plan could offer many communities help in terms of getting many of these residential streets paved,” Cerullo said. “I’m very hopeful that it passes because I believe it will provide many opportunities to fix and provide solutions to these types of problems.”

City leaders estimate it will cost $130-$150 million to pave all 100 miles of unpaved roads across Wichita. The next step is looking at possible tax increases and federal funding to cover some of the cost.

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