Area motorists will have another highway headache to deal with for nearly two years, as the Missouri Department of Transportation plans to reconfigure the busy interchange at Interstate 70 and Interstate 435 just west of the Truman Sports Complex.
Most notably, the project involves replacing the left-side ramps from I-435 to I-70 with turbine ramps from the right sides of I-435 and replacing the I-435 bridges with roads closer together. The $47 million project – fully funded by MoDOT – will likely last through most of 2020.
Beginning later this month, the biggest impact for motorists will be having the two loop ramps at the interchange – eastbound I-70 to northbound I-435 and westbound I-70 to southbound I-435 – closed for the project's duration. The on-ramp from Manchester Trafficway to westbound I-70 and the I-70 eastbound exit ramp to Manchester also will be closed during that time.
James Pflum, MoDOT's lead engineer for the project, said planning for this has taken “Years and years and years at this point. As far as the design, it's been three-four years.”
MoDOT also has scheduled this interchange project so it wasn't concurrent with other large-scale projects nearby, for traffic and monetary concerns.
“All interchanges are designed to operate to a certain capacity,” he said. “This one has certainly reached its capacity.”
MoDOT said the interchange easily has at least 100,000 vehicles pass through daily. For comparison, about 70,000 use I-470 at I-70 in Independence.
MoDOT says replacing the left-exit ramps from I-435 to I-70 and with longer, sweeping ramps exiting from the right will ease congestion and reduce crashes caused by vehicles merging, weaving and jockeying into the desired lane.
“Traffic volumes all increase, and at major corridors we have to look and see if they can handle it,” Pflum said. “We do the best we can to predict what's coming.”
“They're very vital, in both directions.”
To accommodate the new turbine ramps, as well as the I-435 lanes being reconstructed closer together, the two loop ramps from I-70 will be slightly reconfigured, as will the outside ramps to and from eastbound I-70. The outside ramps to and from westbound I-70 will not be changed.
At some point, MoDOT will have to close I-70 to demolish and clean up the closed bridges, similar to last June when it closed the freeway for a weekend to drop the Phelps Road, Crysler Avenue and Pittman Road bridges.
“The big bonus for us is we get rid of two deteriorated bridges; it's a common theme,” Pflum said, referring to the fact MoDOT recently spent a large portion of the last two years rehabbing all its I-470 bridges and replacing some bridges over I-70 – many of which had been constructed around the time the interstate system greatly expanded.
From 9 a.m. until about 3 p.m. both Thursday and Friday, MoDOT will have the right lane of eastbound I-70 closed from 18th Street to Cleveland Avenue in Kansas City so crews can set up signs, equipment and detour routes. Pflum said he hopes contractors can start turning dirt next week.
The suggested detour for westbound I-70 to southbound I-435 is to exit at Manchester, turn around to eastbound I-70 and then I-435.
For eastbound I-70 to northbound I-435, the suggested detour is to use U.S. 40 starting near 31st Street to northbound I-435.
Pflum said the Royals and Chiefs have been good partners to work with – important when planning a large highway project next to their stadiums that create extra traffic at that interchange dozens of times a year.
“It takes a lot of forethought, I'll say that,” Pflum said. “We just ask people to understand, there's a lot of planning that goes into this.”