A busy stretch of two-lane roadway in the Northland, once lined with used car lots and a gentlemen’s club, is being transformed into Kansas City’s newest section of landscaped parkway with sidewalks and bike lanes.
The creation of Chouteau Parkway will also ease a traffic chokepoint between Missouri 210 and Interstate 35.
The project, budgeted at $36 million, has been decades in coming. One holdup was a difference of philosophy between the city and the Missouri Department of Transportation over whether the project should be used to clear out undesirable land uses, such as the adult club and a tattoo parlor.
That’s what the city, particularly the parks commission, wanted. The state wanted to widen the road, but its policy was to have as little effect as possible on the existing environment.
City and neighborhood leaders went to Jefferson City to lobby the highway commission. The result was a deal in which the state will relinquish the route — officially Missouri 269 — to the city. The city will get its way and the parks department will get the responsibility of maintaining the new parkway.
People who live near and use Chouteau are just happy that dirt is finally moving.
“I think this is going to improve the atmosphere in the neighborhood,” said Becky Harrison, president of the Winwood-Sunnybrook Community Council, which represents the area east of Chouteau. “I expect it to be a big asset.”
The construction project began last month and is expected to continue through the spring of 2014. The key intersection of Chouteau and Parvin Road will be closed from June 1 through mid August so crews can make storm water improvements. Otherwise, traffic will still be allowed on Chouteau as the project is built.
When finished, the parkway will complete a four-lane link between the Chouteau Bridge over the Missouri River and the sycamore-lined section of Chouteau Trafficway north of I-35. The existing two-lane road carries nearly 18,000 vehicles a day and traffic routinely backs up during morning and evening commutes. The accident rate is also higher than the state average.
“This is not just a beautification project,” said Sean Demory of the Kansas City Capital Projects Department. “This is a utility project. The road will be like a gateway to the Northland and a jewel of the area, but it will also be a roadway that will address the absolute need for increased (traffic) capacity in that area.”
Still, it will be a nicer road to drive on or to bike, walk or jog along.
Each of the northbound and southbound lanes will be 12 feet wide. There will be five-foot bike lanes in each direction, as well as sidewalks and a trail.
The section north of Parvin Road will have a 60-foot median. South of Parvin, where the terrain is more challenging, the median will be much narrower.
Both sides of the parkway will have extensive green spaces designed to absorb storm runoff.
“We used to have a lot of flooding problems, and this is going to reduce that,” said Harrison, noting that the area where the Chouteau Crossings shopping mall is now was once a recreational lake.
Running along the west side of the existing road is Buckeye Creek, and that will remain. MoDOT officials had preferred an alignment for the new parkway that would have placed it in the greenway alongside the creek. That would have spared the businesses on the east side, including Diamond Joe’s Gentlemen’s Club.
But park commissioners preferred an alignment that required obtaining right of way and clearing development on both sides of the old road. That was much more expensive.
Demory said the city spent $8.7 million acquiring parts of 25 land parcels and all of 32 parcels and helping businesses relocate.
Overall, the city is contributing $16 million to the parkway project and MoDOT is contributing $20 million, Demory said. The city’s share is coming from sales tax revenue and bonds as well as from the Chouteau Crossings tax increment financing district.
Harrison acknowledged that it wasn’t hard to say goodbye to some of the businesses and unsightly houses that used to line Chouteau. But she said the project also forced out a barber shop, a beauty shop, a popular hamburger place and other neighborhood assets.
“We lost our doughnut shop,” she said, “and that was a big bummer.”