People share their priorities, expectations at kickoff meeting for “Beyond the Loop”
About 160 people attended the kickoff meeting of the “Beyond the Loop” study on Thursday, Feb. 23, at the Central Branch of the Kansas City Public Library. Beyond the Loop is an 18-month planning study that will lay the groundwork for future improvements to the Broadway Bridge, recently renamed the John Jordan “Buck” O’Neil Memorial Bridge, and the north side of the downtown loop.
U.S. Highway 169 crosses the Missouri River on the Broadway/O’Neil Bridge — a critical route that is heavily used by travelers in both directions, connecting northland communities to and through downtown Kansas City and providing northbound travelers with access to Kansas City airports and northland jobs and amenities. Built in 1956, the bridge will need significant rehabilitation in the next few years to continue to serve the traveling public.
At its south end, the bridge connects with I-70 on the north side of the downtown freeway loop, providing a critical east-west connection between downtown Kansas City, Missouri, and downtown Kansas City, Kansas. The study area encompasses the full downtown loop and stretches north to the intersection of U.S. 169 and I-29. In addition to highways and bridges, the study area includes neighborhoods, industrial districts, railways, the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas rivers, and the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport.
Asked to imagine what the study area might look like over the next 60 years, participants at the kickoff meeting envisioned downtown as a vibrant, mixed-use community and center for entertainment and events. Throughout the study area, participants foresee growing business and employment centers as well as residential districts, with an increased emphasis on transit connectivity. When asked about their priorities, participants ranked more transportation choices at the top, followed by retaining neighborhood character, transportation safety, environmental quality and economic development opportunities.
“As we plan for the future of this area, it’s important to keep the needs of all users in mind,” said Ron Achelpohl, MARC’s director of transportation and environment. “We’ll need to look at all the ways people travel through the area, including driving, using public transit, walking and bicycling, but we also need to consider goods movement by truck, rail, barge and air travel, and the impact of any design changes on nearby neighborhoods.”
The Beyond the Loop planning study is a project of the Mid-America Regional Council, the city of Kansas City, Missouri, and the Missouri Department of Transportation, working in partnership with the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas, the Kansas Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Department of Transportation. Other stakeholders include Jackson, Platte and Clay counties, KCATA, the KC Streetcar Authority, Port KC, cities and neighborhood associations in and near the project area, economic development agencies, chambers of commerce, nonprofit organizations and business associations.
Project partners will use input from the kickoff meeting to establish a formal statement of purpose and need, then seek further input from the public and stakeholders on how future infrastructure investments and potential design changes can best support our vision for the future. The study will examine a wide range of possibilities suggested by partner agencies and the public, using data analysis and modeling to determine which options are most feasible.
“This is the first step in a long-term process,” said Achelpohl. “With this planning study, we expect to identify up to four feasible alternatives for the area. More work will be done later to decide on a final plan and find the funding needed to implement it. And while this long-term study is going on, the bridge will still need maintenance and repairs to continue to safely handle the 40,000 cars that use it each day.”
Additional public meetings will be scheduled throughout the next year. People may also share their ideas and comments online at www.beyondtheloopkc.com , or follow the project’s progress on Facebook and Twitter using @beyondtheloopkc.