By Michael Bushnell
The westbound lanes of I-70 closed at 18th Street just before the Benton curve on January 13 due to a fatal fire under a highway overpass. Upon arrival, crews found a large structure under the bridge that was ablaze. The impacted overpass crosses the railroad tracks that run east and west, just before crossing Truman Road to the east.
Firefighters responded to the area of 1700 Cleveland Avenue just before 6 a.m. Thursday morning. Columns of smoke could be seen billowing out from underneath the overpass, where homeless persons are known to camp.
The investigation following the fire revealed a body in the debris and the Kansas City Police Department was called to the scene. The deceased is believed to be an adult. Foul play is not suspected at this time.
Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) officials arrived on the scene to evaluate the structural integrity of the overpass. Westbound traffic was being rerouted onto 18th Street.
A bridge inspection determined severe damage occurred primarily under the center lane. The long-term plan to repair the bridge is not known at this time.
On Friday, MoDOT shared an update on social media, “Some good news this afternoon. Repairs are now underway and crews hope to reopen the outer lanes of westbound I-70 & 18th St. in KCMO by Monday morning. However, the center lane will remain closed until further notice. If you’re going to The Kansas City Chiefs game Sunday night, please plan ahead. Thanks for your patience.”
Thanks in part to exceptional planning, collaborative efforts and tireless work, MoDOT reopened the westbound I-70 bridge on Sunday just after 3 p.m. They cautioned motorists to be aware that westbound traffic will split at 18th St. because the center lane remains closed. It has not been determined when the center lane will reopen.
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