Fixing Westport’s flooding problem could cost $60 million, years of labor

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Flooding in Westport is nothing new, but why does it happen, and how can it be fixed? The answer is not easily.

On Wednesday, the intersection of Westport Road and Mill Street looked more like a lake after a bout of flash flooding.

That area of the Kansas City entertainment district is visibly low, and Tim Kimes, manager of stormwater engineering with KC Water, said when the infrastructure was built, they didn’t count on Westport being as big as it is now.

“This has probably been an issue for Westport for 75 years at least,” Kimes said.

Longtime Westport business owner Bill Nigro said the district known for drinking is also known for water.

“It’s kind of part of the history of Kansas City’s watering hole,” Nigro said. “Somewhere in our offices there is an article from the year 1868, and the article says the bridge at Westport Road and Mill Creek washed out again.”

It’s a watering hole, but sometimes it can look more like a water basin. Flash flooding in the area periodically fills up the streets — and some unassuming parked cars as well.

“The pipe just doesn’t hold enough for that big of a storm,” Kimes said.

Kimes said when they built the infrastructure over Mill Creek, the pipes weren’t big enough for the future. He said the city looked into it in 2008, and it would cost $60 million and years worth of labor to fix.

“They’d have to open up the streets, put in new storm pipes, put in a series of curb inlets in the road, run those pipes past the Embassy Suites, down Broadway all the way to Brush Creek to drain that water,” Kimes said.

“I look at the bright side of things down here because Westport is where a lot of people come still. It’s a great place to be entertained. We get a dose of water once in a while,” Nigro said.

Kimes said the city does have money earmarked for flood control through a general obligation (GO) bond, but this project is so large it would create quite a strain on it.

“It would be a huge disruption, and it would take a few years to start and finish the project. It would be something that people would have to live with construction for quite a while, so it would be very difficult for people,” Kimes said.

So what can you do for now if you’re concerned about your car getting flooded?

“If it rains really hard, I would park just a tad bit uphill,” Nigro said.

He said when it floods, the police and fire departments respond quickly and are always good about blocking off the streets to keep people from driving into water. Nigro said he can’t thank them enough.

The funding from the GO bond has alread been used for some flooding fixes in Kansas City. Some of it went to fix parts of Southwest Boulevard and in the West Bottoms. Both are notoriously low level areas.

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