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Can you see the future? Planners summon help in replacing KC’s Buck O’Neil Bridge

The Mid-America Regional Council gathered community members Thursday to begin its “Beyond the Loop” public meetings to plan possible region-wide impacts as it become times to replace the Buck O’Neil Bridge.
The Mid-America Regional Council gathered community members Thursday to begin its “Beyond the Loop” public meetings to plan possible region-wide impacts as it become times to replace the Buck O’Neil Bridge. File photo

Now more than 60 years old, the Buck O’Neil Bridge is going to need a major makeover. A big-with-far-ranging-impacts makeover.

Rebuilding the former Broadway Bridge could mean rebuilding much of the North Loop and the brutish highways erected in the post-World War II rush to meet the exploding enthusiasm for the automobile.

It means trying to imagine the transportation needs of a world of automated cars and trucks, of virtual meetings online, of people pushing back at the suburbs to live in a central city that they expect to be diverse, environmentally clean and pedestrian and bike friendly.

More than 100 people gathered at the Downtown Kansas City Public Library with the Mid-America Regional Council Thursday to begin imagining what’s possible.

This is going to take some 18 months of planning, Mid-America Regional Council Director of Transportation and Environment Ron Achelpohl said.

“And,” he added, “there’s no funding.”

That’s not unintentional, said Danny Rotert of Burns and McDonnell, who coordinated the broad discussion.

People who want to participate in the planning will be able to feed into multiple ideas, imagining varying future scenarios, he said. Dream big, he said, and then government money managers can figure out later how to pay for it.

There will be more sessions — people can follow along at www.beyondtheloopkc.com — with some initial proposals expected by summer or early fall. More public meetings would home in on a single proposal that MARC would like to bring for more public discussion in early 2018.

There may be about 25 meetings over the next year, Rotert said.

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