Within a couple years, Independence Public Works and the Missouri Department of Transportation plan to start transforming a large portion of U.S. 24.

Starting in 2021, the two departments will combine funds – much of it grant money – to expand and enhance U.S. 24. That includes turning four-lane stretches into five lanes with center turn lanes, improving intersections with a better turn radius and adding “complete streets” additions such as sidewalks, curbs and gutters and dedicated bike lanes.

Officials are looking at a two-phase project. U.S. 24 from Missouri 291 west to River Boulevard (just past the Truman Library) would happen in 2021-22. From River to west to Wilson Road (just east of the railroad tracks in the Fairmount neighborhood) is slated for 2023-24.

“This is a project that’s really come together the last few weeks and months,” Tim Gramling, Independence's public works director, said earlier this week while discussing the project with the City Council. “It's kind of morphed into the possibility of a significantly transformative project.”

Independence had already started plans for working on U.S. 24 when MoDOT came to the city later last year after some studying the road.

“They'd done a safety analysis and said 24 Highway from 291 to the west was the second-highest rated accident corridor in their entire Kansas City district,” Gramling said, “which was kind of a surprise to us.”

After both sides took a look at the road to identify a variety of concerns, they agreed a joint project would be the best way to go.

For phase one, Independence will use a pair of grants from Mid-America Regional Council totaling $3.5 million for a 50-50 cost share. Gramling said design work has already started.

The city's portion for phase two isn't finalized, but MoDOT has funds lined up, he said, adding that a cost share agreement should come before the City Council next month.

“We want to take advantage of them offering those funds,” Gramling said. “We're not spending anymore than we were going to.”

Council Member John Perkins asked if there would be any public engagement, as such a project while cause some inconvenience for citizens, particularly with access points.

“This is pretty transformative for the east and west side of Independence. As we move along, we need to do our diligence,” Perkins said, “because there's going to be some significant land acquisition going on there.”

Gramling said there would be some discussion with the public once an agreement is in place and the two sides can set a schedule.

Perkins then wondered if perhaps the city could work with Kansas City on a possible third phase.

“I'm throwing the long ball here like the Chiefs,” he said, “but what about getting something from Wilson out to 435 and having that whole section enhanced.”

“It's probably a little fuzzier on that because it's with Kansas City,” Gramling said, adding that MoDOT might not be able to help there, “but we could talk with them.”

Independence also has a complete streets project for U.S. 40 slated for next year.