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KDOT Considers Tolls To Fund Bridge Replacement In Leavenworth

Tim Kiser
Wikimedia Commons--CC

The Kansas Department of Transportation wants to know what drivers would be willing to pay for a new bridge over the Missouri River near Fort Leavenworth – if it saved them time.

The 60-year-old Route 92 Centennial Bridge is “functionally obsolete,” industry parlance for an old bridge that doesn’t really work for today’s traffic.

“It’s a very narrow bridge,” says Mark Kenneally with TranSystems, the consulting firm helping KDOT conduct a bridge study. “It doesn’t have any shoulders with it, so if there are any accidents or incidents on the bridge, it can result in closure for the bridge.”

Kenneally says the two-lane bridge is at capacity – it carries some 14,000 travelers a day across the river.

“The folks in Kansas and Leavenworth use the bridge for getting to Kansas City or getting to the airport,” says Kris Norton, a road design leader for KDOT. “The folks in Missouri, there in Platte County and south, use the bridge to get to work in Leavenworth and at the fort as well. The fort uses the bridge to get staff and soldiers to the airport.”

There are plenty of other river bridges in the metro, but they are less convenient for Leavenworth drivers. The Interstate 435 bridge is 15 miles away. The Amelia Earhart bridge in Atchison is 25 miles, a half-hour trip even without traffic.

“The City of Leavenworth more than once has requested that KDOT study this bridge,” Norton says. “Part of that request was to consider tolling if necessary.”

That’s happening now. There was a public meeting earlier this week in Platte County, and there’s one at 5 p.m. Thursday at the Riverfront Community Center, 123 S. Esplanade, Leavenworth, Kansas 66048.

Kenneally says phone surveys will ask people how much they’d be willing to pay for a new bridge, depending on how much time they saved. There were tolls on Centennial Bridge until 1977.

Right now, KDOT is considering two possible locations – immediately north and immediately south of the old bridge. Either would allow Centennial Bridge to remain open through construction.

But Kenneally stressed it’s still early in the process. Though KDOT is taking the lead on the project, Missouri is still expected to kick in half the funding. That’s at a time when the state has scaled back spending on roads and bridges. The earliest construction would start is 2020.

The good news, says Chris Meyer with KDOT structural and geotechnical services, is the current bridge was rehabbed several years ago and remains structurally sound.

“With a little paint and some other small maintenance, it’s probably good for several more years,” he says.

This look at the Missouri River is part of KCUR's months-long examination of how geographic borders affect our daily lives in Kansas City. KCUR will go Beyond Our Borders and spark a community conversation through social outreach and innovative journalism.

We will share the history of these lines, how the borders affect the current Kansas City experience and what’s being done to bridge or dissolve them.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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