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MoDOT Recommends New Buck O’Neil Bridge With Direct Access to Interstate 35

Plan Could Relieve Downtown Bottleneck on Broadway

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Above image credit: The Missouri Department of Transportation has recommended an option to replace the aging Buck O'Neil Bridge. (Courtesy | MoDOT)

A new Buck O’Neil Bridge that would provide a direct connection between U.S. 169 and Interstate 35 – and include a 10-foot-wide path for bicycles and pedestrians – is the preferred plan of the Missouri Department of Transportation.

A public hearing has been scheduled for March 10 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Mid-America Regional Council office at 600 Broadway to discuss what’s being called the “Central Alternative” for the replacement bridge.

According to information on the MoDOT website, the bridge would cost an estimated $210-230 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 Central Alternative, according to a federal Environmental Assessment Study done by MoDOT, would include new south approach spans to the river crossing; ramps to the local street grid on an adjacent alignment along Broadway; and direct connection to I-35 on a western alignment with flyover ramp structures.

The Missouri Department of Transportation is recommending a Buck O’Neil Bridge replacement plan that would allow direct access ramps from U.S. 169 to Interstate 35 downtown. (Courtesy | MoDOT)

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 an estimated cost of $180-200 million; and a “West Alternative,” a slightly farther upriver, that would use less River Market property and cost $230-250 million.

In his State of the State address last month, Missouri Gov. Mike 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 federal, state and city sources. 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.

Flatland contributor Kevin Collison is founder and publisher of CityScene KC, an online source for downtown news and issues.

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