February 18, 2014
The Missouri Department of Transportation [MoDOT] isn’t exactly spinning plates on a stick, but they do, however, have their own balancing act to manage.
With a draft plan for its Interstate-70 corridor study ready, members of MoDOT are asking themselves how do they get goods moved by trucks along I-70 without increasing noise or decreasing air pollution. They’re also asking themselves how are people who live in Blue Springs supposed to drive to work in downtown Kansas City, but, if you live along I-70, how does MoDOT not ruin your backyard.
On Tuesday, the Northeast Industrial Association held its monthly meeting with a special guest, Randy Johnson, district planning manager for MoDOT, who explained the department’s draft plan as well as well as funding and the public’s reception to meetings held so far. The study is being conducted to determine how to improve the traffic flow and congestion of I-70 between The Paseo and Blue Ridge Cutoff interchanges as well as remedy merging and weaving issues at specific interchanges along the interstate highway. The study aims to improve safety conditions of that section of I-70, which currently has deteriorating pavement and bridges.
“The majority of people who come to our meetings are locals citizens and what we’re finding out is local citizens don’t use I-70 as much as someone who lives out in the eastern suburbs,” Johnson said. “So their concerns aren’t what we’re doing with I-70 but what are we going to do to make sure they can get on both sides of the interstate.”
Johnson added the concerns also include proposed relocation of homes and businesses as well as keeping the interchanges open. In his presentation, he noted 31 residential properties and six businesses would qualify for relocation.
“People who show up and drive I-70 believe it needs to be fixed,” Johnson said.
Johnson went over the Environmental Impact Statement’s recommendations, also known as the preferred alternative, to “improve the highway’s safety and efficiency while maintaining negative impacts to the community’s current and future vitality and economic state.” This plan, which is still in the draft phase, includes the possible ramp closure at Brooklyn Avenue and ramp improvements at Benton Boulevard and Truman Road, between Wabash Avenue and Olive Street and between Prospect and Montgall Avenues. Improvements to these ares include extending the ramp lengths to help entering and exiting the highway safer.
“Some of those interchange ramps are short, so we’re trying to figure out ways to increase the length,” Johnson said, adding that increasing one an extra 300 feet, could give drivers a little more time to safely get around the corridor. “We’re meeting with folks to find out what’s going on and where the traffic is coming from. We’re trying to look at the big picture.”
Johnson said the study should be completed this fall and will sit on the shelf until funding becomes available. Currently, funding is estimated to be at $227 million. If no funding becomes available within five years, the study would have to be redone.
“That [funding] would be done in phases,” Johnson said.
Now through March 7, MoDOT is in the public comment period of the study. MoDOT will hold several meetings in the upcoming weeks to get more input from the public. The final study will be based on those comments as well as improvements members of MoDOT believes will make I-70 better.
“This is important but it will come down to financing,” Johnson said, adding MoDOT is hopeful a one cent, 10 year gas tax will be put up for a vote this fall to help with funding for the project.
MoDot is scheduled to host a public meeting from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, at the Northeast Branch Library, 6000 Wilson Road. For more information on future meetings and the I-70 study, visit http://www.modot.org/kansascity/metroi70/index.htm.