Advocates for South Loop Deck to Seek MoDOT Support

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A rendering of how a park above the South Loop might look. (HNTB)

By Kevin Collison

The South Loop decking proposal continues to evolve as a working committee prepares to discuss the ambitious concept with state transportation officials and a decision already made to drop one block from the plan.

The proposal, first reported in CityScene KC last March, calls for reconnecting downtown with the Crossroads by decking the South Loop (I-670) trench.

A study by HNTB engineering estimated a four-block stretch between Grand and Wyandotte could be covered with a landscaped park for about $139 million, significantly less than earlier decking proposals.

Bill Dietrich, president of the Downtown Council, the private group leading the effort, said a working committee established to pursue the concept has decided to pursue a less expensive approach that would deck the freeway three blocks from Grand to Baltimore.

The next step will be sounding out the Missouri Department of Transportation about potential state participation in financing what’s envisioned as a public-private partnership.

“We’re at the point where we need to engage MoDOT which hasn’t been done yet,” Dietrich said. “The big thing is beginning the process of doing advanced concept engineering.”

Klyde Warren Park was built over a downtown freeway in Dallas. (HNTB)

Private partners participating include two firms with big investments near the South Loop trench, the Cordish Co. and Loews Hotels.

Cordish has built the Two Light apartment tower adjoining the downtown freeway and has  the green light from the city to construct the Three Light apartment tower, which will also border the highway trench.

Loews has invested substantial money in the new convention hotel now being built on the south side of the freeway at Truman Road and Baltimore.

Dietrich said up to $3 million needs to be raised to undertake the advanced engineering. That study will help supporters estimate the cost per block of building the project.

The block between Baltimore and Wyandotte has been removed from initial consideration because of the steep grade involved, Dietrich said.

Once the advanced engineering work is completed an environmental study would have to be done.

Nudging MoDOT toward participating in the proposal is the need within the next decade to make major repairs on a couple of the downtown bridges that cross the South Loop, Dietrich observed.

The Kansas City decking concept is modeled after a public-private partnership that covered a section of the downtown freeway in Dallas with a park.

Klyde Warren Park opened in 2012. It covers a three-block stretch of the Woodall Rogers Freeway that separated the Uptown neighborhood from downtown Dallas. The project cost about $110 million with the cost split evenly between public and private funding sources.

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