The adoption in 1972 of a comprehensive plan by the city of Independence. That plan envisioned what is now becoming the Lewis and Clark Expressway, which one day will run from Interstate 70 at the Little Blue River north to U.S. 24 and then west through northern Indepedence, Sugar Creek and the East Bottoms in Kansas City. That loop will take some traffic off I-70 and I-435 and will open much of east Independence and Sugar Creek to development.

The adoption in 1972 of a comprehensive plan by the city of Independence. That plan envisioned what is now becoming the Lewis and Clark Expressway, which one day will run from Interstate 70 at the Little Blue River north to U.S. 24 and then west through northern Indepedence, Sugar Creek and the East Bottoms in Kansas City. That loop will take some traffic off I-70 and I-435 and will open much of east Independence and Sugar Creek to development.



Getting the I-70 interchange at Selsa Road, now the Little Blue Expressway. It’s the area where Blue Ridge Bank and IHOP now sit. That interchange opened in 1999.

“You can’t build a road without access,” says Independence Chamber of Commerce President Rick Hemmingsen says.



Replacing the Chouteau Bridge in Kansas City, which was completed in 2001.





Step four is the part being completed now, “a culmination of 39 years of work,” as Hemmingsen puts it.

It’s the extension of the Little Blue Expressway north to U.S. 24. The piece of that just opened – from 39th Street to R.D. Mize Road, the area east of Centerpoint Medical Center – was the toughest, Hemmingsen says, because there’s a lot of rock in the area and a bridge over a rail line was needed. Punching north to U.S. 24 should go much more quickly. It’s expected to be done in November 2011.

“I think it’s a fantastic thing to happen in our community,” says Mayor Don Reimal, noting the addition of homes, stores and industry.

It opens 38 square miles to development, and Hemmingsen says that means 15,000 new homes over the next 30 years. That compares with about 48,000 homes in the city today.

Also look for about 4 million square feet of retail space – the equivalent of four new Independence Centers.

“This is going to bring in developers ...” says Mayor Reimal.

The city also wants a new industrial park, “which we sorely, desperately have needed,” Hemmingsen says, adding that such jobs and the improved access would help revitalized areas such as western Independence.



Step five is next: It will run from Front Street in Kansas City to Sterling Avenue in Sugar Creek.

Those plans are in early stages, and design work is under way. Local officials will be looking for federal money in 2011 and 2012.



Step six is many years off, Hemmingsen says, running from Sterling east across northern Independence to where U.S. 24 and Little Blue will soon meet.

“It’s going to be very expensive,” Hemmingsen says.

– Jeff Fox