Kansas City officials want the state of Missouri to replace the Broadway Bridge, a frequent headache for Northland commuters, as part of a comprehensive plan to improve traffic flow on the north end of downtown.
By KEVIN COLLISON
The Kansas City Star
And they may find some traction with the Missouri Department of Transportation despite the agency’s ongoing funding problems.
MoDOT already is moving forward with an $80 million project to replace the Fairfax Bridge to the west in Riverside beginning next October, and officials would like to put some kind of Broadway Bridge project on their five-year plan.
“There is an interest in initiating a study to look into the (Broadway) project and figuring out what the right fix is,” Brian Kidwell, MoDOT assistant district engineer, said Thursday. “The problem is funding.”
Kansas City officials would like the state to think bigger than building a new Broadway Bridge — at a cost that could top $200 million.
They want MoDOT to not only replace the bridge but overhaul its primary access roads as well. The biggest hassle is at Sixth Street and Broadway, a tangled intersection where traffic signals can back up morning and evening rush-hour traffic for up to a half mile at times.
“This is an intriguing opportunity for the city to deal with MoDOT not only on the bridge itself, but the work at Sixth and Broadway, which is a bugaboo,” City Manager Troy Schulte said.
The steel-truss structure carrying traffic on U.S. 169 opened as a toll bridge run by the city in 1956. The toll was ended in 1991 and the bridge was handed over to state control the next year. It carries 50,000 to 60,000 vehicles daily.
As Kansas City’s population continues to boom north of the Missouri River, Schulte said, improving transportation between the two halves of the city is critical to its future. Platte County’s population is projected to jump by 76 percent by 2040, while Clay County could soar by 70 percent.
“The Broadway Bridge is one of our four river crossings and the last one that really needs work,” Schulte said. “This is the last big bridge. This is our critical river crossing.”
Ideally, the city would like to see improvements made to the roughly 1.5-mile stretch of the North Loop, or Interstate 70, between the new Kit Bond Bridge and the Lewis and Clark Viaduct. They also want a new Broadway Bridge to accomodate pedestrians and bicyclists too.
“The North Loop creates a lot of problems,” said John Fairfield, chairman of the Downtown Council infrastructure committee and a former City Council member who represented the Northland. “There needs to be a creative way to make it safer.
“This is a complex issue, and the reason we’re getting on this early is because we don’t want a quick fix because this is a 100-year bridge,” he said.
The Broadway Bridge does need work.
Kidwell said a recent inspection revealed deterioration of its steel trusses, including rust, and for the first time in its history, a weight limit was set at 45 tons. Repairing the bridge would cost up to $20 million, but the kind of ambitious program envisioned by city leaders would cost more than $200 million.
Coincidentally, Kidwell was attending an all-day meeting at Union Station on Thursday at which MoDOT officials presented a draft of the state’s long-range transportation plan. It’s the result of a series of public hearings across the state, and more than 12,000 projects valued at over $17 billion have been suggested over the next 20 years.
“The Broadway Bridge is a great example everybody can relate to of the great projects we don’t have money for,” he said.
MoDOT said its construction budget has dropped to $700 million this year, down from a $1.2 billion average over the past six years.
There is a request for about $2 million to study what needs to happen next with the Broadway Bridge. Kidwell said if funding is eventually found, construction on a new bridge could begin by 2017 or 2018.
The replacement of the Fairfax Bridge, however, is fully funded and MoDOT plans to begin seeking a builder in January. The bridge carries U.S. 69 traffic over the Missouri River near the Argosy Casino and connects Riverside and the Fairfax industrial district in Kansas City, Kan.
The cost of the project is being split evenly with the Kansas Department of Transportation. Construction is expected to begin in October 2014, and completion is scheduled for October 2016.
The Fairfax Bridge is made up of two separate bridges. Southbound traffic is carried by the original Fairfax Bridge, which was completed in 1933. Northbound traffic is carried on what’s known as the Platte Purchase Bridge, which opened in 1955.
Kidwell said the construction of what will be a new four-lane crossing needs to be completed by October 2016 because the Kansas Department of Transportation plans to begin work then on the westbound Lewis and Clark Viaduct.
While the funding for the new Fairfax Bridge is committed, a major question remains as to whether the entire crossing will be closed for the two-year construction period or whether the current bridges will remain open.
MoDOT has narrowed the plan to two alternatives.
One calls for building the new bridge upstream from the existing location, which would allow traffic to continue. The other calls for building the new bridge at the existing location, which would require detouring traffic to the Interstate 635 or Lewis and Clark bridges over the river.
Kidwell said the alternative that would have the least impact would be replacing the bridge at its current location. The entity selected to design and build the new bridge will have a significant role in making the final decision and also whether the replacement crossing will be a single four-lane span or two two-lane bridges.
Mayor Kathy Rose of Riverside said her community is strongly opposed to completely closing the Fairfax Bridge because it would disrupt access to the casino and the Riverside Horizons Business Park. The Fairfax bridge carries 15,000 to 20,000 vehicles daily.
“We want the U.S. 69 bridge and the Argosy Parkway to remain open during construction,” she said.
She added her community wants to be consulted on any design plans and given an opportunity to comment.