Groups weigh funding solutions for critically needed Buck O’Neil Bridge repairs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Missouri Department of Transportation says the Buck O’Neil Bridge is in desperate need of repairs. The challenge is trying to figure out how to pay for it, which might cost some cities surrounding Kansas City.

“It`s 61 years old, and it`s an old metal truss type bridge, and when these bridges get to this age, they just start having problems because of rust and deterioration,” said Chris Redline, Assistant District Engineer for MoDOT.

MoDOT says one strategy for fixing it could close the bridge for two years -- and that would impact traffic tremendously and cost around $50 million.

“We don`t have the money to build the new bridge, and that`s the problem,” added Redline.

Mayor Sly James and City Manager Troy Schulte asked for $40 million in federal funds to help replace the bridge, which would cost a total of about $200 million. One option allows the city to spread out that money over a couple of years.

“Every two years we go through a process where we`ll allocate federal funds to transportation projects in the region, and we are planning to start that in January,” said Ron Achelpohl, the Director of Transportation and Environment for MARC (Mid-America Regional Council).

Some other nearby cities, like Grandview, feel this is an unfair allocation of funds.

“There are a lot of important projects in the region, and to just pick one to give a region`s allocation to, we don`t think it`s fair,” said Dennis Randolph, the Director Of Public Works for Grandview. “We don`t mind sharing the funds at all, but to take two years allocation, and not any other community to have a project, isn`t fair.”

Around 44,000 people drive across the bridge daily. MoDOT has offered up to $100 million in matching funds if Kansas City can secure the rest, but there's uncertainty on both sides about where that money might come from.

“We`ve had a problem since 1980 that we`ve been trying to have the highway department work with us to fix, and that`s a long time, 37 years, and we certainly have been in line a lot longer than the Buck O`Neil Bridge,” Randolph added.

The Mid-America Regional Council is setting up series of special meetings -- which are open to the public -- to walk through options, starting in November.