To Build A 21st Century Transportation System, Missouri Must First Replace Old Bridges

Jul 26, 2017

Missouri Department of Transportation engineers are warning policymakers that inadequate infrastructure funding could close bridges and snarl traffic in the Kansas City area.

The 62-year-old Buck O'Neil Bridge has already been rehabbed once and is approaching the end of its useful life, according to MoDOT engineers.
Credit Julie Denesha / KCUR

“If a road degrades slightly, you can still drive on it. If a bridge is weight-posted, you can’t drive a heavy load on it,” says MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna. “That really disconnects communities all across the state.”

McKenna was in Kansas City Wednesday for a meeting of the 21st Century Missouri Transportation Task Force, a bipartisan coalition of state lawmakers, gubernatorial appointees and business leaders that has spent the summer gathering feedback on critical infrastructure.

McKenna says the 62-year-old Buck O’Neil Bridge – formerly the Broadway Bridge – has reached the end of its useful life and needs to be replaced.

“The prospect of closing that bridge down while it’s being rehabbed for a couple of years is not acceptable to the community here, and we’re trying to find solutions to that,” McKenna says.

But Missouri’s gas tax hasn’t increased since 1996, forcing MoDOT to defer maintenance on roads and bridges.

“I can buy half of the construction – the steel, the concrete, the asphalt and pay for labor – that I could in 1996,” McKenna says.

The task force is expected to issue a report before the end of the year.  

Elle Moxley covers Missouri schools and politics for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.