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I-29 in Kansas City Benefits from Missouri’s Focus on Bridges Program

by: Larry Bernstein
Missouri DOT reconstructed the 56th Street and Waukomis Bridges in Kansas City for less maintenance and better cost savings over time.
Missouri DOT reconstructed the 56th Street and Waukomis Bridges in Kansas City for less maintenance and better cost savings over time.
The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has been completing various bridge work as part of Governor Mike Parson’s $351 million Focus on Bridges program. The program aims to repair or replace 250 bridges across the state. A few bridges impacted by the recently completed I-29 Multiple Bridge Replacement project are in Platte County, which includes Kansas City.

I-29 is a north-south route from Kansas City, Missouri, to North Dakota and the border between the United States and Canada. The bridges that the project included are on the northern outskirts of Kansas City. I-29 runs between downtown Kansas City and the Kansas City International Airport.

The project replaced two sets of bridges along I-29. The first set is over 56th Street. Originally built in 1967, the twin set of concrete slab twin bridges had three lanes in each direction and was just over 120 feet long. About 55,000 vehicles used the bridge daily.

“There’s a variety of traffic that uses the bridges including local, truck, and tourist traffic,” says Chris Karlin, Resident Engineer with MoDOT who oversees all the projects in the county. “These bridges are in an area that is primarily residential, yet I-29 connects downtown Kansas City with the airport which accounts for the range of traffic.”

The other bridge that was replaced is the Waukomis Drive Bridge, which is approximately one mile south from the 56th Street bridges. The Waukomis Drive Bridge – a concrete deck girder bridge – was originally built in 1957. Widened in 1974, the bridge had four lanes in each direction and was nearly 125 feet long. Approximately 90,000 vehicles per day used the bridge.

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MoDOT decided to replace, rather than repair, the bridges since they found it was more cost-effective than rehabbing them. The new bridges have the same number of lanes and are the same length.

“The Waukomis bridge was switched to a dual bridge because it helped with phasing,” Karlin says. “Plus, two smaller bridges are easier to maintain than one larger structure.”

Besides installing the new bridges, the team added a sidewalk, shared-use path, and lighting underneath the bridges. The project also added a left turn lane to 56th Street and Waukomis Drive. Karlin notes the added lane will help improve traffic safety.

Keep Traffic Moving
MoDOT was committed to minimizing delays and keeping the bridges open during construction. They kept two lanes open in each direction throughout construction. This was relatively simple on the Waukomis Drive Bridge. Traffic was shifted to one of the bridges, and the lanes were divided into northern and southern directions.

On the 56th Street bridge, traffic was shifted onto one bridge while the team replaced the other. They turned three lanes into four by using the shoulder and slightly reducing the width of each existing lane.

“From MoDOT’s perspective as the bridge owner, maintenance of traffic and keeping the flow going is essential,” says Karlin. “This impacts customers as that’s what they see.” Because of this philosophy, coming up with a design set to maintain as much traffic flow as possible was imperative.

“Based on the fact that we got few questions or concerns was a good indication that the project went smoothly from the communication perspective,” says Brooke Rohlfing, a Senior Communications Specialist with MoDOT. Rohlfing says there were limited plan changes and good weather, which also helped with communication on project. The team communicated with the local school district and neighborhoods in the area to keep them informed. Karlin credits the design team and the contractor for their plan to implement the design.

One at a Time
As part of the plan to minimize traffic impacts, the team focused on one bridge at a time. “Because the bridges are near each other, there was a chance the traffic impacts would extend to the other,” Karlin says, “so we did one at a time to lessen the conflict.”

The 56th Street bridge project began in the Spring of 2021 and was completed at the end of the construction season. Waukomis followed the next year and was also completed in one construction season.

Radmacher Brothers Excavating, headquartered in Pleasant Hill, Missouri, just south of Kansas City, served as the general contractor. Karlin says Radmacher was flexible and able to adapt to any necessary changes.

The $7 million project was financed via the traditional 80/20 split between the federal and state government. The project finished slightly under budget, more proof that the project went smoothly.

As noted, this project was part of the governor's Focus on Bridges Program. The governor put forth the proposal in January 2019, which the General Assembly passed later that same year. The proposal was for $50 million to repair or replace 45 bridges during fiscal year 2020. In July, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded MoDOT an $81.2 million INFRA Grant.

According to the Focus on Bridges website, "The grant will also trigger a $301 million bonding program, authorized by the legislature in the 2019 session and to be repaid over seven years from State General Revenue, that will repair or replace an additional 215 bridges across the state - freeing up $301 million from the current Statewide Transportation Improvement Program for new transportation improvement projects.”

The state’s portion of the project came via the Focus on Bridges initiative.

With the new bridges, the driving public enjoys a smooth ride on up-to-date bridges. They are not inconvenienced by unexpected repairs. Also, MoDOT no longer has to perform frequent maintenance on the bridges, which frees up staff to focus on other priorities.

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