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New O’Neil Bridge Still May See Occasional Backups for I-35 Traffic

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(Updated Feb. 5, 2021. A joint venture that includes Massman Co., Clarkson Construction Co. and HNTB Corp. has been selected to build the replacement Buck O’Neil Bridge, the Missouri Department of Transportation announced this week. 

Work on the $220 million project will begin this fall and is expected to be completed by late fall of 2024, according to MoDOT.

The Massman-Clarkson design-build joint venture, an all Kansas City-based team,  was selected over competing bids by two other design-build teams, American Bridge and Traylor-Ames.)

(Updated Feb. 24, 2021. MoDOT released new renderings of the planned bridge replacement and Tweeted a virtual flyover of the project.

A spokesman for the department also released this statement in response to the initial negative reaction to the design on social media:

“According to Mary Miller, MoDOT Project Director for the BOB, this is the plan going forward.

It was awarded at the February Commission meeting. Removal of the existing bridge is in our contract. However, the city has been looking at the possibility of keeping the existing bridge.

Plans for the new river bridge crossing will include 2 lanes NB and 2 lanes SB as well as a 10’ bike ped path that ties into Richards Rd., just north of the river and ties into Broadway Blvd. and the riverfront trail on the south side of the river.

The new bridge will also include color changing LED lights along the ped path, decorative bridge railing, a scenic overlook with benches and plaques, decorative form liner on MSE walls, murals on some of the bridge piers and along one retaining wall, improvements at the riverfront trailhead on the south side of the river and landscaping.”)

By Kevin Collison

The proposed $225 million replacement of the Buck O’Neil Bridge will directly connect I-35 and U.S. 169, but because of site constrictions motorists still will likely see backups during peak traffic hours, a top MoDOT official said this week.

There will be only one lane in each direction connecting the planned bridge with I-35 traffic, according to the “Central Alternative” recommended by the Missouri Department of Transportation.

Rendering of planned O’Neil Bridge replacement looking south.

Mary Miller, project director for the bridge replacement, said site issues where the planned replacement bridge will land downtown prevented building multi-lane connections each way.

“There was no good place to drop another lane,” she said at a public hearing this week on the project. “Two-lane ramps wouldn’t work.

“People will still see improved traffic flow, but during peak traffic hours there still will be slowdowns. Most of the day there should be a free flow.”

Miller estimated about 40 percent of the current traffic using the Buck O’Neil Bridge travels between I-35 and U.S. 169.

The proposed O’Neil Bridge replacement will connect with I-35 with one-lane (blue) in each direction.

The planned replacement bridge also will have a direct, multi-lane connection to Broadway and I-35 will continue to connect with the North Loop.

About 100 people attended the public hearing earlier this week at the Mid-America Regional Council. They viewed poster boards of the new project and a 12-foot road map showing how it will connect with U.S. 169 and downtown.

Miller said funding for the project has been identified, 50 percent coming from the state and 50 percent from the city. That includes a $25 million BUILD federal grant and other federal highway funding.

View of the O’Neil bridge looking north.

The next step for the project will be seeking approval from the Federal Highway Administration in April followed by a request for proposals this July. One firm will be chosen to both design and build the new bridge.

The schedule calls for the design-build firm to be chosen in February 2021 with work starting in mid-2021. Completion is expected in December 2024.

Miller also said the new bridge is being designed to complement a potential future redesign or elimination of the North Loop freeway that separates downtown from the River Market.

A planning endeavor called Beyond the Loop has identified several options for the roadway and its trench including scaling it back to a parkway or eliminating it altogether.

“The new bridge would accommodate any options,” Miller said.

The existing 65 year-old bridge will be removed when the replacement project is completed.

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