KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City’s efforts to obtain $40 million in federal funding to replace an important bridge are unsettling officials for neighboring cities, who think the request would stop them from trying to get funds for their transportation projects.
The city wants the funds from the Surface Transportation Program to help pay the estimated $200 million cost of repairing the Buck O’Neil Bridge, which carries 44,000 drivers a day across the Missouri River. Mayor Sly James and City Manager Troy Schulte made the request in a letter to the Mid-America Regional Council, which allocates the funds to various projects in the Kansas City metro area.
Normally, MARC would allocate the funds — between $30 and $37 million — to multiple projects in the region, The Kansas City Star reported . Officials from nearby Grandview say Kansas City’s request would take most, if not all, of the funds that the Missouri side of the metro region would get for two years.
“Not even having the chance (for the funds) is not fair or appropriate,” said Dennis Randolph, public works director for Grandview, which planned to request $5 million of the funds for transportation projects.
Kansas City leaders, however, say a long closure of the Buck O’Neil Bridge “would have irreversible and devastating life-safety and economic impacts to the Kansas City region,” the letter from James and Schulte warns.
The state has determined the bridge is deteriorating, and there were talks of starting repairs in 2019 but the proposed method would have required closing the bridge for two years.
James said this week “having that bridge closed for two years is the worst thing that could happen.”
Replacing the Buck O’Neil Bridge without extensive closures would cost $200 million but the funding is uncertain. The Missouri Department of Transportation has offered up to $100 million in matching funds if Kansas City can get the rest.
But the transportation department has not identified where the $100 million match would come from, said Susan Barry, assistant district manager.
And Kansas City officials aren’t sure where they would get $100 million, even if its $40 million request was approved.
Dena Mezger, public works director for Lee’s Summit, said Kansas City officials at a meeting this week conceded the possibility of splitting its request over more than one funding cycle — each funding cycle lasts two years.
“It’s a big ask,” said Ron Achelpohl, director of transportation and environment at MARC. “It would compete with other needs in the region. There would be a number of jurisdictions that will have legitimate concerns.”
Barry said the committee could decide to give Kansas City’s a large part of its request but leave some money for other municipalities.
Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com