By Kevin Collison
A new Buck O’Neil Bridge that would provide a direct connection between U.S. 169 and Interstate 35, and include a 10-foot path for bicycles and pedestrians is the preferred choice of the Missouri Department of Transportation.
A public hearing has been scheduled by MoDOT for March 10 at the Mid-America Regional Council office at 600 Broadway from 4- to 6 p.m. to discuss what’s being called the “Central Alternative” for the replacement bridge.
According to information on the MoDOT website, the Central Alternative bridge would cost an estimated $210 million- to $230 million. If the project moves ahead, the new bridge could be ready for traffic by Dec. 1, 2024.
A direct link to I-35 would greatly improve access between the Northland and the west side of downtown. Currently, the only downtown access to the Buck O’Neil Bridge is a cumbersome, signaled intersection from Broadway.
The benefits of the Central Alternative, according to a federal Environmental Assessment Study done by MoDOT include:
–Constructs new south approach spans to the river crossing
–Constructs ramps to local street grid on an adjacent alignment along Broadway Boulevard
–Constructs direct connection to I-35 on a western alignment with flyover ramp structures
–Replaces I-35 ramp bridges over I-70 & Sixth Street
–Reconstructs I-35 roadways and walls along bluff south of I-70
–Restores/improves Broadway Boulevard at grade from Third Street to Fourth Street; and removes Broadway Boulevard between Fourth Street and Fifth Street.
–Removes northbound Broadway to westbound I-70 loop ramp
–May replace Woodswether Bridge
The Central Alternative was one of three suggested by MoDOT last year. All three would remove the existing bridge in favor of a new replacement.
The other options were an “Adjacent Alternative” that would build a new bridge parallel to the existing structure at a cost of $180 million -$200 million; and a “West Alternative,” a slightly farther upriver, that would use less River Market property and cost $230 million- to $250 million.
In his State of the State address last month, Missouri Gov. Parson said the state would furnish the last $60 million for the replacement project.
About $200 million in funding has been committed to the project by the feds, state and city. Where the additional funds will come from for a more expensive alternative has not been identified, at least publicly.
At the March 10 public hearing, people will be able to review the preferred Central Alternative and ask the study team questions and provide feedback by submitting a comment card in writing, according to a release from MoDOT.
The bridge opened in 1956 as the Broadway Bridge and was a toll bridge until 1991.
It was renamed the Buck O’Neil Bridge in honor of the beloved Kansas City Monarchs legend and longtime ambassador for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in 2016. O’Neil died in 2006.
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