The new George Brett bridge – Blue Ridge Cut-off over Interstate 70 – was officially opened Wednesday.

It’s open

The new George Brett bridge – Blue Ridge Cut-off over Interstate 70 – was officially opened Wednesday.

The bridge is a key access point to Kauffman and Arrowhead stadiums, and today is opening day for the Kansas City Royals. Officials cut the ribbon just a little more than 24 hours ahead of today’s 3:10 p.m. game against the Los Angeles Angels.

Wednesday was cold, cloudy and windy, and today’s forecast isn’t a lot better. “Does it feel like baseball weather,” quipped Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders.

Brett, a Hall of Famer who spent his entire career with the Royals, recalled driving over the old bridge every day during his 1973 rookie season, when he lived in Independence, and the following season, when he lived in Blue Springs. “It’s a lot better bridge today than it was then,” he said.


Quick project

The contractor, Clarkson Construction, had just 75 days to replace the bridge, working through the winter – even waiting for a blizzard to clear in February – between Chiefs and Royals seasons.

“The old George Brett bridge closed Jan. 14, and the new bridge opens today. That’s amazing,” said Grace Nichols, chair of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission.


What’s next

The new bridge is part of work being done to improve traffic in the Interstate 70/Interstate 435 area, which Nichols called Kansas City’s biggest bottleneck. The new bridge helps clear the way for MoDOT to widen I-70 to six lanes underneath I-435.


Other work yet to be done:

The U.S. 40 bridge over I-435, which was replaced last year, will get a northbound ramp onto I-435 and southbound ramp off I-435.

 

The ramp from northbound I-435 onto eastbound I-70 – the one that takes a lot of traffic from south Kansas City and Johnson County to the stadiums – is being rebuilt and will have a direct connection to Blue Ridge Cut-off.

All of the work is to be done by Thanksgiving.


How much

All of the work being done in the area costs $39.34 million, most of it from federal stimulus money. Nichols noted that MoDOT construction spending has averaged $1.2 billion a year for several years but that funding sources are drying up. “Moving forward, the best it will be is half of that,” she said. Nichols made a pitch for new funding sources. “We’re down in the count and protecting the plate at this point,” she said.