Even though the Flintlock Flyover bridge crossing Interstate 35 failed to relieve much traffic congestion where Missouri 152 crosses the interstate just north of Flintlock Road, the folks at the Liberty School District certainly appreciate it.
“We love the flyover,” said Ono Monachino, the district’s transportation director.
“We were able to start the school year with seven fewer buses because of the flyover. And depending on the size of the bus and the number of students, each one saves the district $40,000 to $50,000 per year. … All that money can be put back into the classroom, where it needs to be.”
Monachino said the reduction from 76 buses last school year to 69 this year occurred even though the district’s enrollment increased from 11,300 students to 12,000. And he attributed it primarily to the opening of the Flintlock Flyover bridge in the summer, just before the school year started.
“It cut down on the travel time back and forth to the western part of the district, on the Kansas City side (of I-35),” Monachino said. “Our buses were crossing the 152 or 291 bridges upwards of 200 times a day. But having the flyover has given us quicker access to the Kansas City side of the district, where 50 percent of our 6,000 students live.”
Steve Elliott, who lives on the east side of I-35 in the Bent Oaks subdivision, likes the new bridge, too.
“For me, it’s made in heaven,” Elliott said last week. To get from his house in Liberty to a commercial strip on the Kansas City side, “you don’t have to deal with the traffic” at the 152 and I-35 intersection. “Before, you could have had to sit there through three cycles of the light.”
And the traffic at 152 and I-35 is still bad during rush hour, according to one woman who works at the Phillips 66 service station and convenience store nearby.
“It’s still the worst intersection ever,” said Rebecca Brewster. “Every rush hour is the worst.”
Brian Kidwell, assistant district engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation, said the intersection is “one of the busiest” north of the Missouri River. He said the Flintlock Flyover has relieved some of the congestion at 152 and I-35, but it’s just a drop in the bucket.
“We haven’t done any traffic counts (since the flyover opened),” Kidwell said, “but I think folks are happy. It’s a better, safer route for the school buses. … The public is still finding it; becoming aware of it. I’d say it’s still under-utilized. There is more room to grow.”
When the $18.5 million Flintlock project opened, officials said it could expect to carry 10,000 cars a day.
The 152 and I-35 intersection, in contrast, sees between 50,000 and 55,000 vehicles per day, said Steven Hansen, public works director for Liberty.
“If you divert 5,000 a day off that, you are not really going to notice it,” Hansen said.
Hansen said he has been associated with the Flintlock Flyover project since its conception in 1999. With Liberty’s share of the cost at $1.9 million, it’s been a bargain for the city, he said. Kansas City picked up $3 million of the cost, and the federal government paid for the rest. Hansen, too, thinks area residents are still becoming aware of the flyover.
“A lot of people think it’s an immediate relief valve for traffic on other roads,” Hansen said. “But its purpose is to be part of an overall street network system.”
Liberty’s traffic congestion could be eased further by extending the South Liberty Parkway to Missouri 291 so drivers could reach the flyover more directly from the eastern part of the city, he said.
“We’d like to do it, but we don’t have the $20 million it would take,” Hansen said.