The city’s Public Works Department continued the installation of the new advanced warning curtain system near the low clearance railroad bridge on Independence Avenue despite concerns expressed by Avenue stakeholders at two follow-up public engagement sessions held, ostensibly to determine to further discuss exactly where the new system would be installed.
On Friday, December 1st, contractors began drilling large holes on both sides of the infamous, “truck-eating” bridge. As we reported in the December 6th edition of The Northeast News, those initial holes were “exploratory” in nature to determine the location of underground utility easements.
While the location of the support pole for the eastbound lanes isn’t cause for great concern, the location of the support pole on the east side of the bridge, directly in front of the Taqueria Mexico restaurant, causes great concern to the surrounding business and property owners.
“It’s right in front of our sign and they are giving no space for trucks to turn around other than our parking lot,” restaurant owner Daniel Yuman said. “We are hoping to take action to see if there’s any way to move it or to compensate us for any damage done to our property and our customers and employee’s vehicles.”
A second engagement session became somewhat heated as Independence Avenue CID CEO Bobbi Baker-Hughes called the city out for poor engagement practices and failing to negotiate in good faith with community stakeholders.
“It’s ridiculous,” Baker-Hughes said. “All they have to do is move the east pole back a hundred feet and trucks can escape on S. White Avenue instead of through the Taqueria Mexico or Mercado Fresco parking lot,” Baker-Hughes continued.
A third and final session was held last Friday to address more concerns brought forward by impacted business owners. Despite those concerns, construction continued on the installation of the warning system.
City Engineer Nick Bosonetto said the city is hoping the drivers see the curtain as they approach the bridge and turn left on White Ave. Taqueria Mexico owners Sylvia Romo and her son Daniel Yuman both expressed strong concerns about what truck drivers do after they hit the curtain given the entrance to their parking lot is the only exit off the Avenue between the warning curtain and the bridge.
“What is the city going to do about the big trucks entering my parking lot?” Romo asked. “It’s going to interfere with our business and cause damage to our parking lot and our customers’ cars,” she added.
Fourth District City Councilman Crispin Rea asked Bosonetto about the possibility of the city installing a large sign near the parking lot entrance that says “No Trucks” as a deterrent.
Baker-Hughes pressed Bosonetto, asking about financial responsibility. “Will the city take any financial responsibility for the damages done both to and in the restaurant’s parking lot?”
“I can’t answer that,” Bosonetto said. “We have no idea what the impacts are. We’re more than happy to see what those are and work from there.”
Bosonetto finally conceded that an additional sign between the restaurant’s western parking lot entrance and the bridge could be added to the plan as an additional layer of caution to drivers who may be tempted to use the private parking lot as an escape route.
Despite the additional pleas from Romo and Yuman, the only ongoing solution the city offered was to continue to monitor the situation and address future problems as they surface.
“It would seem that the logistics of this project could have been improved had the city engaged with the businesses impacted by this project on the front end,” said Baker-Hughes. “It could have been a win-win for the small, family owned businesses in that area as well as the bridge. Hopefully, lessons can be learned and applied to future projects in terms of public engagement,”
Bosonetto noted that the installation of the overhead arms would take place in a couple of weeks. Construction should wrap up around the end of the year, weather permitting ahead of the March 3rd, 2024 partnership financing agreement deadline signed by the city and Kansas City Terminal Railway.