Lane closures set to begin this month as Buck O’Neil Bridge undergoes critical repairs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A massive overhaul to one of the busiest Missouri River crossings into Kansas City is about to begin.

The Buck O'Neil Bridge is more than 60 years old and faces major structural problems.

"It scares me for my safety but also just ease of use," commuter Jenna Felsen said.

The bridge has been deemed in urgent need of repairs to fix significant structural deterioration.

"How can you not think about it and not worry about it?" commuter Hollie Kosorog said.

Desperately needed repairs are coming soon. On Tuesday, Kansas City and MoDOT officials unveiled plans for the fixes and how it will affect drivers.

"You’re going to have six months of inconvenience, but it’s the first step in a multi-step process to build a brand new bridge that will handle our capacity issues, handle our traffic safety issues and improve convenience," said Troy Schulte, city manager for Kansas City.

MoDOT says it will make $5 million of the most crtical of repairs to the expansion joints, suspension cables and pavement to improve safety of the bridge deck.  Cost will be split 50/50 with the city.

Repairs being made now are all designed as a roughly five-year Band-Aid as plans for a new bridge are finalized.

"We’re not doing everything we would’ve done if we were trying to get 20 or 30 years out of the repair. We know this is a short-term repair and have picked the most critical items that need to be fixed to get us to the 2023," said Susan Barry, MoDOT district assistant engineer.

Kansas City voters just approved renewal of a 1-cent sales tax in April, a chunk of which will help pay for the $200 million needed to replace the Buck O'Neil Bridge, and those funds will be combined with money from MoDOT and other local governments to cover the build.

As for the short-term repairs, the southbound lanes will close starting May 19, but you'll still have access to the downtown airport.  Northbound lanes will stay open during construction.

Repairs will last through approximately Dec. 1. It's expected construction of a new bridge could begin by 2020.