Missouri’s plans for fixing a stretch of Interstate 70 in Kansas City are now public; the only hang-up now is a lack of funding.
A final environmental impact statement released Wednesday by the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Kansas City District spells out plans for I-70 just east of downtown KC. It addresses the stretch of highway between Troost Avenue near the downtown loop and Blue Ridge Cutoff near the Kauffman and Arrowhead stadiums.
Major problems include deteriorating roads and bridges, traffic delays and merging issues.
Matt Killion, a MoDOT engineer overseeing Jackson County, says the plan allows MoDOT to proceed with making improvements along that section of highway. I-70 has outlasted its original design life of 20 years, and MoDOT officials say the more-than-50-year-old highway requires almost daily maintenance.
MoDOT will make improvements as funds become available, Killion says, but that makes for a shaky timeline.
“The timeline for improvements is definitely up in the air,” Killion says. “We’re unable to really fund all the improvements that were identified in the study but it provides a template for the improvements as funding does become available, as bridges need replaced, as pavement needs replaced.”
Killion says parts of the first half of the I-70 plan are already complete. For example, MoDOT rebuilt the bridges at Manchester Trafficway, the railroad and Blue River in December 2015.
At least one project is also in the works: construction on the interchange of Interstate 435 and I-70. Improvements are intended to create safer merging and weaving, alleviate congestion by adding a third lane on northbound and southbound I-435 and also remove left-hand exits.
During the 435 interchange project, motorists will notice ramp and lane closures, Killion says. Construction is set to begin in the spring of 2019.
Problems with the 435 interchange will be tackled first because MoDOT already planned for the project about five or six years ago.
“Other improvements along the corridor within the study limits will take place over time.” Killion says. “Currently, the 435/70 interchange is the only project we have in our program that will address recommendations from the study,”
Also contingent upon funding is MoDOT’s plans to reconfigure the curves at Jackson Avenue and Benton Boulevard, where the advisory speed is 45 mph. Once that part of the project is completed, motorists will be able to safely drive the regular speed limit. Killion says changes to the Jackson and Benton curves should not impact homes and businesses in the area.
MoDOT currently operates in “maintenance mode,” Killion says. Crews repair bridges and pavement as needed, but a lack of funding prevents the state transportation department from making all substantive changes such as reconfiguring other interchanges and building additional lanes between exits.
Leah Wankum is an intern at KCUR 89.3