Over the past week, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) Kansas City crews removed U.S. Route 24 signs from Independence Avenue west of I-435.
Beginning at I-435, U.S. 24 has been rerouted along I-435 and I-70 into downtown Kansas City. East of I-435, the U.S. 24 designation remains unchanged.
The work required various overnight lane closures, and motorists were advised to plan ahead and find alternate routes if necessary.
State Rep. Ingrid Burnett (D-23), a longtime resident of Northeast, is one of the many people who have been working toward this solution for years.
“Shortly after I was elected in 2016, I was in a conversation with Bobbi [Baker-Hughes], President of the [Northeast Chamber of Commerce], and she asked me to help get 24 Highway designated to an alternative route,” Burnett said. “Heavy trucks on Independence Boulevard were one of the impediments to creating more inviting and pedestrian friendly options to attract customers along the corridor.”
Although Kansas City has an ordinance that prohibits truck traffic on boulevards, the highway designation meant it could not be enforced. Burnett said rerouting 24 Highway off of Independence Boulevard will allow for more options.
“I believe that the 24 Highway project will indeed make Independence Boulevard a more viable, urban walkable community,” Baker-Hughes said. “The advantages are that we’re not going to be pushing baby carts down the sidewalks going from one store to another while semi trucks are coming up the hill at Chestnut and making a quick turn on Prospect. That’s a benefit to our businesses where people will feel safer to take their families across the intersections.”
Over the years, dozens if not hundreds of semi trucks have hit and become stuck under the railroad bridge near Wilson Road and 24 Highway. While it has become a spectacle on local social media pages and an inside joke of sorts within the Northeast, even prompting one Kansas Citian to get a tattoo dedicated to the bridge’s strength, it can be a dangerous collision.
“My primary aim was to help create conditions that will allow for more local decisions about how to manage the Independence Avenue/Boulevard corridor traffic,” Burnett said. “I hope it helps to reduce the ridiculous number of incidents with the railroad trestle.”
Burnett and Baker-Hughes worked with former City Manager Troy Schulte and his staff to remedy the problem to prevent future accidents.
Once the new route was approved by the City and MoDOT, and an agreement was reached about how the project would be funded and maintained, the decision went before a Federal Highway Commission, which made the final approval.
“One thing I have learned in this job is that moving government takes monumental effort,” Burnett said. “While it might look small, it’s an investment from the state in our community, and for that I feel proud to have been a part.”
Burnett does not foresee any negative economic impacts to the Northeast or its businesses from this change.
“I anticipate it will allow for more local decision making about how to utilize the Independence Avenue/Boulevard corridor for economic development purposes and will create a more friendly environment for customers who patronize our small businesses along the avenue.”
Baker-Hughes said this is just the first step of many to creating a walkable community, making the business nodes of Northeast more accessible.