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City leaders seek public’s input on future of Buck O’Neil bridge

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A new bridge could soon be built to replace the Buck O'Neil Bridge in downtown KC.

And Wednesday night could be your last chance to tell planners where they should put it. City leaders have scheduled an open house Wednesday and Thursday nights to talk about their plans with this structure.

If voters decide to build a new bridge, exactly where they put it, how it connects to downtown and whether they get rid of the north loop of I-70 in the process is all up for discussion.

The Mid-America Regional Council conducted a survey a few months ago to get the public’s opinion on what they wanted – rehab the bridge or build new -- and they say the overwhelming majority want a brand-new bridge.

MARC, MoDOT and Kansas City are working together to secure the $200 million it will take to build it, and the thought right now is to put it to the west of the current bridge.

They also want it to have lanes for walkers and bicyclists.

As for what to do with the north loop of I-70, they haven’t secured any funding yet. But MARC says the majority want to see it shut down and turned into a boulevard system.

The point of Wednesday's open house is to make sure that is still the case.

Ron Achelpohl, MARC Dir. of Transportation, said they are seeking a wide range of options to find out what local drivers really want.

"When we started the project there was really no funding to build anything in the study area here downtown. As we’re moving forward with the bridge, want to make sure we have a range of options the bridge can interact with after it’s constructed," Achelpohl said. "We are not going to end this study with a single recommendation about definitively what to do with the north loop or where to put the back on your bridge, but we will have a number of options that are feasible that can be developed further with further environmental studies and further design studies."

The open house is at MARC headquarters at 6th and Broadway in downtown Kansas City. Thursday’s open house is at iWerx on Clay Street in North Kansas City. Both events run from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., and you are encouraged to attend, especially if you use the Buck O’Neil bridge.

By the way, they are still a couple years away from beginning construction on a new Buck O’Neil Bridge – the next step is an environmental study. But we're told once they do start building it, it should take between three to five years to complete.

"We really need to hear what they have to think about what we’re looking at, some of these are going to be long-term impacts for people, but the bridge itself is something that we will see in the next few years," Achelpol said.