The golden shovels didn’t get dirty at this groundbreaking. Not a speck of mud.
Wednesday’s celebration, which marks the start of construction for a new interchange at U.S. 50. and southbound Missouri 291, moved inside the Harris Park Community Center on a rainy day.
Matt Killion, Kansas City area district engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation, said the extremely wet weather is momentarily delaying the start of construction on the $16 million bridge, entrance ramps and a roundabout, which he called a “diverge-about” — a combination of a diverging diamond and roundabout.
But work starts soon and the department plans to have the work completed by October 2018.
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Killion said the project is being funded by a combination of city, federal and state money, and is a significant improvement that will reduce congestion, rebuild one of Missouri’s 800 bridges that are in poor condition and add a pedestrian and bicycle crossing over U.S. 50 to reach south Lee’s Summit.
“This project really does check a lot of boxes for us,” Killion said.
He said the engineering for the project presented a number of challenges, but the city, MoDOT and George Butler Associates found solutions that will run smoothly.
“One of the benefits of this design is much of it can be constructed without affecting mainline traffic.”
A lot of the work will be completed with the highway open, although there will be lane closures.
Dena Mezger, director of Lee’s Summit Public Works, asked for residents to be patient with the process and look forward to the completion of the new interchange.
“Even if it’s open, it’s not necessarily going to be easy,” she said.
She thanked Lee’s Summit voters who approved a general bond issue that is contributing $8 million to fund the project. Federal grants are providing $6.8 million and MoDOT is spending $1.22 million and is managing the project.
To see an animation of how traffic will travel through the interchange, go to YouTube and search for Route 50 and southbound Missouri 291.
Lee’s Summit city and business leaders have worked several years to bring the new intersection online, said Mayor Randy Rhoads and Chip Moxley co-chairman of the Lee’s Summit Gateway Business Alliance.
Rhoads said that when MoDOT proposed rebuilding the Jefferson Street Bridge over U.S. 50, for safety reasons, he met with that department to explain the city needed a redesigned and new intersection due to congestion. The city also wanted better transportation in the area for economic development.
“Over and over, this community shows what happens when we look forward and support each other,” Rhoads said.
Moxley said when he was looking to locate his company, W.C. Tingle, in Lee’s Summit, he considered the area but chose a site farther north because of drawbacks due to congestion. Even if it doesn’t affect his company directly, he said, fixing the intersection opens more development to the south, which is important to Lee’s Summit’s prosperity.
“It’s a happy and very proud moment for the entire community,” Moxley said.