Voters set to decide future of Buck O’Neil Bridge, North Loop in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Buckle up, it’s going to be another summer full of orange barrels, especially over bridges in Kansas City. But that construction could be nothing compared to projects in the works downtown.

On Wednesday residents got a first look at construction plans that could completely redesign the North Loop and build a new Buck O’Neil Bridge.

If you head north on Interstate 35 to northbound 169 Highway, you’ll suddenly find yourself at a stoplight, waiting to make a left turn across the Broadway Bridge, also known as the Buck O’Neil Bridge.

The Buck O'Neil Bridge

“It’s usually backed up on this road quite a bit, like you will be trying to come off onto this Broadway Bridge, and it will be really congested," said one driver as she waited for the light to change.

“It’s terrible, man. You know when you go left here, it’s terrible," another driver said.

Not long ago, MoDOT considered closing down the bridge used by 40,000 cars a day for two years for repairs. But that led to discussions of just replacing it altogether and realigning to get rid of that left turn.

“As you can see, there are options that would require acquiring property and taking out some of the buildings on the north side of the loop," Ron Achelpohl, Mid-America Regional Council's director of transportation, said at an open house Wednesday.

Another open house will be held from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Thursday at iWerx on Clay Street in North Kansas City.

At Wednesday's meeting, renderings displayed what Kansas City's North Loop could look like if they rebuilt the highway with development on either side, or got rid of it completely and just turned it into a boulevard connecting to Independence Avenue.

See photos of all the proposals in the gallery below. 

“I think that as long the process is done well and the education of the people who have to deal with the construction is done well, people will adjust," City Market Manager Deb Churchill said.

Changes to the loop are a long way off. Work on the bridge will start in a few months. Not to replace it, but instead first $6 million will be spent for critical repairs. Southbound lanes will be closed. Westbound Interstate 70 to KCK is already closed in the same area across the Missouri River.

On Tuesday, April 3, Kansas City voters will be asked to consider extending the 1-cent capital improvements sales tax for 20 more years. Voters will see this ballot language at their polling place:

Question 1: Shall the following be approved?

Shall the City of Kansas City, Missouri reauthorize the existing 1% sales tax authorized by Section 94.510 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri for a period of 20 years to expire on December 31, 2038; continue to fund a capital improvements program for public needs including, but not limited to streets, bridges, curbs, sidewalks, flood control, parks, and public buildings; dedicate in this program 35% of the available annual sales tax receipts for neighborhood conservation, maintenance and improvements to be divided equally among council districts based on the recommendations of the Public Improvements Advisory Committee (“PIAC”) and the final decision of the City Council; dedicate in this program , with review and comment by PIAC, at least 25% of the available annual sales tax receipts for street resurfacing, repair, and construction of complete street facilities and the remainder for other capital improvements, including the City’s share of the costs for the replacement of the Buck O’Neil Bridge?

Edie Ballweg said she expects voters to approve the $200 million bridge.

“I think they will. I think they see the need. You just drive it once or twice and you can see it’s not working," she said.

MoDOT and MARC have already earmarked $140 million in future transportation funding for the project.