Local News Spotlight

Highway planners seek public comment on making I-70 safer

Proposals include closing some interchanges and improving others on a stretch from the Paseo to the Blue Ridge Cutoff.

Updated: 2013-01-28T05:01:57Z

By MATT CAMPBELL

The Kansas City Star

Missouri highway engineers are seeking public comment on alternatives to improve Interstate 70 within Kansas City that could include closing access at some interchanges.

On and off ramps that could be closed include those at Brooklyn Avenue, Benton Boulevard, Truman Road, 18th Street, 27th Street and Manchester Trafficway.

The Missouri Department of Transportation previously wanted to close the Manchester interchange because it was considered too near to Interstate 435. But the state was persuaded to shelve the idea when businesses in the area protested. That proposal, however, is still among the alternatives being considered.

The suggestions are part of a menu of ideas that also includes improving other interchanges, adding lanes and improving the Benton and Jackson curves.

An earlier stage of the study estimated that improving key bottlenecks would cost $160 million for right-of-way acquisition and $630 million for construction.

“There is currently no funding for design and construction,” project manager Allan Zafft acknowledged in a statement. “But completing this study is an important step in having the project ready to go should funding become available.”

I-70 in Kansas City was built more than 50 years ago and was designed to last 20 years. It carries far more traffic now than was anticipated — nearly 95,000 vehicles a day downtown and nearly 113,000 a day near Kauffman Stadium.

So highway engineers are studying ways to improve safety and conditions on the 6.8 miles from the Paseo to the Blue Ridge Cutoff. Officials say that section is experiencing pavement and bridge deterioration, has traffic delays and congestion and has issues with traffic merging and weaving.

MoDOT is seeking suggestions from the public at a series of meetings planned in February and online through Feb. 25 at www.metroi70.com

An analysis of crash data found that eight people died in eight accidents on that stretch of I-70 from 2006 to 2010, and there were 32 crashes that resulted in disabling injuries. The largest percentage of crashes were rear-enders, accounting for 48 percent of accidents.

The highway is only going to get more congested without improvements. The population of Jackson County is expected to grow by nearly 21 percent by 2040, while the metro population is expected to grow by 41 percent in that time.

To reach Matt Campbell, call 816-234-4902 or send email to mcampbell@kcstar.com.

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