The opening of the new U.S. 40 bridge over Interstate 435 a few days ago is part of an effort to ease traffic flow this year at the I-435/I-70 intersection.

The opening of the new U.S. 40 bridge over Interstate 435 a few days ago is part of an effort to ease traffic flow this year at the I-435/I-70 intersection.

Drivers on the new bridge will still see the contractor on site doing the next part of the project – adding an onramp from 40 down to northbound I-435 and adding an offramp from southbound I-435. The Missouri Department of Transportation says that work is to be done late this fall. That’s expected to take some traffic off I-435 and I-70, a relief to drivers during rush hour and on game day.

The old U.S. 40 bridge, built in 1966, was taken down in early July, and the new one opened last weekend, beating MoDOT’s stated timeline by more than a week. All of the material, including 510 tons of reinforced steel and 579 feet of aluminum handrailing, was recycled, and the new bridge was built from recycled materials.

The new bridge is just north of the I-70/I-435 interchange, and this project is part of a $39 million effort to upgrade that entire area. Chiefly, that includes adding a third lane each way on I-70 east of Manchester Boulevard. Plans also include improved access to Kauffman and Arrowhead stadiums.

This winter, the George Brett Bridge – Blue Ridge Cut-off over I-70, at the front door to the stadiums – is being taken down and replaced. The contractor will have a narrow window to get that done. It has to be after the Chiefs’ season – their last scheduled home game is Jan. 2 but could be later if they make the playoffs – and before the Royals home opener, which is March 31, a few days earlier than normal.

Also this year, MoDOT has been doing bridgework on eastbound I-70 from downtown Kansas City to Manchester. Commuters will get the same irritation in reverse in 2011, as MoDOT works on those same bridges in the westbound lanes. And then more work along that stretch of the interstate is planned in 2013.