The timing couldn’t have been worse for the closing of Grand Boulevard last week north of Truman Road because of cracks and crumbling concrete, where the road crosses over Interstate 670.
State transportation officials said Friday that repairs won’t be enough. The whole thing must be demolished, and a new one isn’t expected to open until December.
Last week motorists had to endure backups because of inspections and some repair work. The shutdown of traffic on Grand Boulevard also occurred as the city opened the 2.2-mile downtown streetcar to passengers.
The stop-and-go streetcar operation will severely choke the traffic flow on Main Street. That normally would send cars and trucks onto Grand Boulevard and other north-south through streets downtown.
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But closing a key section of Grand Boulevard severely affects vehicle and pedestrian traffic’s ability to conveniently get to the Power & Light District and the Sprint Center.
But the city and the Missouri Department of Transportation are right to take the added precaution of shutting down the five-lane Grand Boulevard viaduct over I-670. A more than 20-foot crack was found in the structure. The viaduct was built in 1963 and carries 9,300 vehicles a day. Highway officials said it appeared to be in need of serious repairs or replacement.
Replacement was the call that the Missouri Department of Transportation made Friday. Public safety is the issue. No one wants such a structure to actually collapse, putting vehicle and pedestrian traffic at risk on the viaduct and below.
A new viaduct isn’t expected to open until December.
Although this past winter was relatively mild, highway officials said the damage to the viaduct may have been caused by water seeping into interior portions of the structure and freezing. Truck, bus and other vehicle traffic create on ongoing pounding on the viaduct, adding to the stress on the structure.
A long zig-zag crack on the viaduct was detected Friday with fairly sizable chunks of concrete that could fall, posing a threat to motorists on the interstate below.
The highway was mistakenly reopened last Friday night but closed again the following afternoon.
The three-lane Main Street viaduct over the highway was built at a cost of $2.75 million to carry vehicular and pedestrian traffic as well as the new streetcar. Other viaducts over the highway include Broadway to the west. Going east from there over the interstate through the core of downtown are Baltimore Avenue, Main Street, Walnut Street and Oak Street.
The McGee Street viaduct was removed when the Sprint Center was constructed a few years ago. Needless to say, navigating traffic and parking downtown will be a bit more complicated now.