Buck O’Neil Bridge reopens in both directions

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Buck O'Neil Bridge is open in both directions Wednesday after shutting down for nearly six months for repairs.

The bridge is more than 60 years old and faced major structural problems. The Missouri Department of Transportation said it needed to repair expansion joints, replace cables and work on the main pier in the Missouri River.

All that work meant no access for those who take the southbound lanes into downtown Kansas City.

About 44,000 metro drivers use the bridge every day.

Many drivers north of the Missouri River used the Bond Bridge -- the official detour MoDOT recommended. Others used the Heart of America Bridge, and Platte County drivers likely used the Fairfax Bridge through Kansas City, Kansas. These detours added 10-15 minutes to commutes for drivers.

These repairsĀ  to the Buck O'Neil Bridge are just a temporary fix.

"So the original plan was for a 35-year fix," resident engineer with MoDOT James Pflum told FOX4 in May. "Now we`re looking at much shorter-term solution, but it allows us to partner with the city of Kansas City to look at a new bridge."

In April, Kansas City voters approved the renewal of a 1 percent sales tax to help pay for a new bridge. However, the new bridge project is not fully funded. The state needs to find an additional $50 million.

"We know the importance of this job and the importance of partnering with Kansas City, and so we're going to do everything we can to find those additional funds," said Susan Barry, assistant district engineer at MoDOT.

MoDOT used traffic modeling -- looking 20 years into the future and accounting for development in the Northland -- and even helicopters to see how traffic moves in and out of the downtown loop as they plan for the new bridge.

Plus, the community has made it clear the new bridge should be bicycle and pedestrian friendly.

"I think you have to think of downtown more as a destination instead of a pass-through," Barry said at the time. "You think of what downtown looked like 20 years ago, like it did on the weekends. It's definitely not like that anymore."

And what about the design of the new Buck O'Neil Bridge?

"We're going to do what we can to work with the city to make it as attractive and iconic as we can," Barry said. "Buck O'Neil, he's an important person in this community. He's well-known, and we definitely want to give him a bridge that is worthy of him."

This year's repairs cost $5 million. A $2 million study was also done at the same time to lay the groundwork for what is expected to be a $200 million replacement bridge.