At one time, it was regarded as the worst section of roadway in the state of Kansas. Running the short stretch from the east edge of Wellington to the Kansas Turnpike entrance, US Highway 160 would often be closed due to the amount of snow or rain that had fallen. Once word came over the wire about the road being closed, everything would come to a halt for east and west traffic through Wellington.
The former Santa Fe Railroad Underpass acted as a bottleneck for drivers who either could not get through due to the water or snow, or because of the limited height clearance for the bridge. Numerous motor vehicle accidents occurred at this spot over the years. In one of them, a motor home was totally destroyed. In another, a heavy duty truck slammed into one of the bridge posts. Others occurred as a result of the water that too often filled underneath the bridge, itself. Many a vehicle was known to have stalled out in the pool of water that would inevitably form after a hard rain.
As early as 1959, a letter appeared in the Wellington Daily News demanding action be taken to replace this section of roadway, as well as the troublesome bridge, itself. It was not until 1964 that serious action began to be taken, with the planning now including the four-lane stretch Wellington residents now know and enjoy on the east edge of town.
The new overpass was built to the south of the existing one. It was done in such a way as to keep the old one open while the new bridge was being constructed. Once it was completed, though, the former underpass was filled in with sand and buried.
By 1966, any traces of the so-called former blight on the Kansas Highway System were long gone. If one looks carefully, though, they can still see where the old roadbed remains visible as it comes into Wellington from the east. The underpass, however, is buried out on the Sumner County landscape, just a memory no longer to be dreaded on a rainy day.
Raiders of the Lost Underpass
Feb 14, 2018 at 8:13 AM