With spring sneaking closer, much-needed road work begins — and with it, frustrations for drivers.
Two big projects this year will affect how commuters will get around downtown.
Beginning this weekend, a two-year reconstruction project of the Lewis & Clark Viaduct in Kansas gets underway. Demolition of the viaduct is expected to begin in March with construction following soon after.
Although the project is in Kansas, the majority of the traffic control takes place in Missouri on the northwest corner of the downtown loop.
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Closures begin this weekend and will change the flow of traffic in the downtown loop as westbound Interstate 70 over the viaduct is shut down for the duration of the project.
“There are only so many ways to get from one place to another if you’re trying to go west in Kansas City,” said Nicole Randall, director of communications for the Kansas Department of Transportation.
About 22,000 vehicles a day normally head into Kansas City, Kan., over the viaduct, according to the Kansas Department of Transportation.
That includes trucks serving the Fairfax Industrial District that now will mix with the regular traffic as they detour along westbound Interstate 670.
And soon after drivers get used to the new traffic flow, the Buck O’Neil Bridge will partially close for about six months while short-term repairs are made to the bridge.
The southbound lanes of the Buck O’Neil bridge will close in late June when the $6.1 million project gets underway. The primary detour will be over the Bond Bridge into the the northeast corner of the downtown loop.
About 20,000 vehicles use the southbound lanes of the Buck O’Neil Bridge.
“It’s hard to say for sure the impact,” said Matt Killion, area engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Kansas City District.
“We do have experience with past projects that when we closed the bridge . . . the other river crossings were able to handle the additional traffic from the Buck O’Neil closure.”
The Lewis & Clark project will begin affecting traffic Thursday night as crews will have intermittent lane closings overnight along northbound Interstate 35 from 17th Street to Interstate 70 to place overhead signs.
That work is expected to be completed by the morning rush hour Friday.
Here’s what to expect:
▪ At 10 p.m. Friday, westbound I-70 from the northeast corner of the downtown loop to Third Street in Kansas City, Kan., will be closed to set up for the $64.8 million Lewis & Clark project.
▪ On Sunday, the permanent closures will go in effect. Westbound I-70 over the viaduct will be closed past the Broadway interchange to Third Street in Kansas City, Kan., as well as the ramps from Broadway, Beardsley Road and northbound I-35 to westbound I-70.
▪ In Kansas City, Kan., ramps from westbound I-70 to Minnesota Avenue, Washington Boulevard and the Fairfax Trafficway will be closed.
▪ On the north side of the loop, westbound traffic will be able to access Broadway and southbound I-35.
▪ Northbound I-35 traffic will see some additional traffic as part of a secondary detour. The eastbound lanes of I-70 over the viaduct will remain open.
The impact the detours will have on traffic is uncertain. Drivers are likely to see the biggest impact during the first few weeks, as people adapt to the closures.
Drivers are urged to obey the rules of the road, watch their speeds and follow the detour signs.
“We just ask for patience, especially in the first few weeks as people are getting use to this,” she said. “After they get used to this for several weeks, I’m sure that its just going to be another normal day — just a little bit heavier traffic.”