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Kansas City Northlanders: Here's How To Cross Missouri River With Buck O'Neil Bridge Closed

Julie Denesha
Built in the 1950s, the Buck O'Neil Bridge is nearing the end of its lifespan. Southbound lanes close Saturday for construction slated to last until December.

Starting Saturday, southbound lanes on the Buck O'Neil Bridge will be shut down for construction until December.

This will inconvenience around 44,000 commuters who cross the bridge daily. Here are alternate routes:

If you're heading south on Route 169 and I-29:
You'll see signs directing you to Southbound I-35 to the Christopher S. Bond Bridge.

If you're entering onto Southbound Route 169 south of I-29:Try Southbound Route 9 to the Heart of America Bridge.

If you're heading to downtown Kansas City, Missouri, from Platte County on Southbound I-29:
Transfer to I-635 then divert to Route 69 and cross the Fairfax Bridge.

If you're heading to Kansas City, Kansas:
Take the Fairfax Bridge, or stay on I-635.

According to 2016 data from the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), each of those routes sees the following traffic daily:

  • Christopher Bond Bridge: 103,451 vehicles per day.
  • Heart of America Bridge: 25,983 vehicles per day.
  • Fairfax Bridge: 12,934 vehicles per day.
  • I-635: 50,451 vehicles per day.

For the first week or so, people should prepare to adjust according to the traffic they encounter, says MoDOT Assistant District Engineer Sarah Barry.
"We're asking people to find a time that's less crowded," Barry says. "If your job allows flexibility to start an hour earlier to avoid morning and afternoon rush hour, that might help."

The initial plan for construction on the bridge would have taken two years and closed down both southbound and northbound lanes. But, Barry says, MoDOT realized it needed to keep 50 percent of the bridge functional for daily commuters, so it limited repairs to focus on critical needs.

That includes addressing needs for bicyclists and pedestrians, stabilizing the center pier supporting from beneath the bridge, and repairing the plates supporting the cables that hold up the bridge.

Barry says there might be days when all four lanes of two-way traffic are closed, but not for days or weeks on end.

Those times might be good practice for future construction of a brand new bridge, a plan that has received approval from the public but is waiting on an environmental assessment required by the National Environmental Policy Act. That assessment will take 18 months to evaluate the impacts of various options for addressing the deterioration of the 62-year-old structure formerly known as the Broadway Bridge.

If cleared, a replacement bridge would cost $200 million and would likely be completed by 2023.

Andrea Tudhope is a reporter for KCUR 89.3. Email her at andreat@kcur.org and follow her on Twitter @_tudhope.

Andrea Tudhope is an award-winning multimedia journalist based in Kansas City, Missouri. She is currently coordinating producer for America Amplified, a national public media community engagement initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
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