By Kevin Collison
Construction is expected to begin later this year on a $6 million pedestrian/bicycle bridge connecting the River Market to Berkley Riverfront Park, the start of a new era of improved access to the downtown riverfront.
The city is close to selecting a design engineer for the project and already has identified construction funding for the 1,500 foot-long bridge which will run parallel to the Grand Boulevard viaduct.
And while it’s on a separate development path, the new pedestrian/bicycle bridge is slated to be joined by an extension of the streetcar route to the park, a $20.2 million project that already has lined up its $14.2 million in federal assistance.
The streetcar route will run on the existing Grand Viaduct.
The goal of the pedestrian/bicycle bridge is to better link the riverfront to existing bicycle paths and be a companion piece to the streetcar extension.
“One of the projects main goals is to provide multimodal access in the existing Grand corridor between the two busy River Market and Riverfront areas,” Maggie Green, spokesperson for the City Public Works Department, said in an email.
“The landing of the bridge in the Riverfront will connect into the existing River Front Heritage Trail and the shared-use path along Berkley Parkway.”
For decades, the riverfront has been relatively isolated from downtown, its primary access the Grand Viaduct which was designed for motorized traffic and included no lanes for bicycles and was off limits to pedestrians.
Access began to improve in 2004 when the Town of Kansas pedestrian bridge was built at the foot of Main Street, allowing people and bicyclists to descend several flights of steps or an elevator to the riverfront trail.
The new pedestrian/bicycle bridge, coupled with the streetcar extension, will dramatically improve that access.
Green said design work for the pedestrian/bicycle bridge is expected to be completed in about eight months with construction hopefully starting in the fourth quarter of this year. Funds were included in a general obligation bond approved by voters.
The bridge will be built independently of the viaduct and is expected to be 12- to 14-feet wide, depending on the final design. WSP Global is the designer.
“WSP has already some good ideas on how to fit multi-modes on the pathway (bikes, scooters, peds, etc.), Green said in an email.
She said a virtual meeting is expected to be held this summer to brief the public on the plan.
While no timetable has been announced for the streetcar extension to the west end of Berkley Park, officials have said in a previous interview they hoped it would begin sometime this year with completion by late 2023.
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