Major Bridge Victory in Missouri

By Carolyn S on October 05, 2010


imageFor Kansas City civic leaders, the Missouri River is an exciting, barely tapped resource that brings human and natural history to the doorstep of downtown. But, for many years, area cyclists have seen the Big Muddy as a big barrier.

With no safe means to cross the bridges over the Missouri River, bicycle commuters and recreational riders had difficulty moving between the urban core and the city’s growing northern neighborhoods and commercial districts.

Not anymore.

Last week, the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation joined a number of other groups and government agencies to cut the ribbon on a separated bicycle path on the Heart of America Bridge. According to Brent Hugh, the bike fed’s executive director, the new facility is a longtime dream finally made reality.

“Advocates have been working for this day for more than two decades,” Hugh says. “The Missouri River cuts the Kansas City metro area in half, and a safe crossing point for bicyclists and pedestrians has been the biggest missing piece of the area’s bike-ped network.”

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A broad coalition of advocates and officials made it happen. In 2006, the Missouri Department of Transportation started planning for the reconstruction of the Paseo Bridge, the landmark structure that carries Interstate 35 over the Missouri River. A feasibility studied frowned on the addition of bike-ped facilities to the Paseo, but suggested the nearby Heart of America Bridge could provide safe passage for cyclists. Hundreds of residents showed up at public meetings and thousands expressed their support for a safe bridge crossing in e-mails and phone calls.

The result: MoDOT retrofitted the 25-year-old bridge with a $2.88 million separated path. When it opened last week, ahead of schedule, cyclists pedaled across with smiles and video cameras. Adding to the excitement, Hugh says, the push for bridge access spawned more than a single victory.

“We came out of this with a regional bike-ped River Crossings Policy and now MoDOT District 4 is working on its first ever District-wide Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan — one that will be a model for the other nine MoDOT districts across the state,” Hugh adds.

Even better, officials at MoDOT are now working on a second bike-ped crossing on the Chouteau Bridge, just two miles to the east. According to Hugh: “Having these two river crossings in place is going to be tremendously important in energizing the rest of Kansas City’s bike/ped network to finally come together.”

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