by Alan McArthur
Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser met on Friday with some local officials at the Barry Road Bridge over Rush Creek to urge city staff to work faster to get the bridge replaced and open.
The bridge was closed on Friday, Aug. 15 after Kansas City public works employees determined the bridge was deteriorating faster than initially anticipated. According to Dennis Gagnon, public information officer for the public works department, the deterioration was due to large trucks using the bridge.
Gagnon previously said the bridge would remain closed until 2010 when the bridge and road widening project is scheduled to be finished.
On Friday, Funkhouser called for the plans to be moved up and expedited.
“This is obviously something that needs a lot more attention,” said Funkhouser. “This problem has been developing for years.”
Funkhouser said he was placing a “flag in the ground” to make sure the city staff move to hurry the project.
“We can build an arena in less time than to rebuild a bridge,” said Funkhouser.
Funkhouser also stressed that the bridge closing was causing a safety issue to nearby neighborhoods as traffic was detouring through the neighborhoods.
“I remember the first forum I went to before becoming mayor was on Barry Road,” said Funkhouser. “Not only is (the bridge) inconvenient, but kids have been killed here.”
Funkhouser referred to the two teens killed in an accident in 2004 near the bridge.
The mother of Darren Floyd, one of the teens killed, spoke on Friday.
“Our children deserve to travel on safe roadways and bridges, whether they are on a school bus, driving themselves, or riding with us. We should be able to count on that at least,” said Julie Floyd.
Funkhouser said the I-35 Bridge in Minneapolis took less than a year to complete and the Barry Bridge should not take as long as planned.
“We ought to be able to build a three-lane bridge as fast as a bridge over the Mississippi River,” said Funkhouser.
Funkhouser said that if they speed up the project it will probably cost more to get the project finished.
Part of the delay in starting the project is the required moving of utilities in the road's right of way. Another stated delay is that the project is part of the overall widening of Barry Road which is starting at Congress Avenue and working west. The entire project is estimated to cost $11.7 million.
The project includes raising the bridge and leveling some hills near the bridge to increase sight distances. The new bridge is planned to be three lanes wide with bicycle lanes and sidewalks on each side.
According to information provided by Funkhouser's office, the area of Barry Road has had 17 deaths from accidents. The bridge normally carries 49 Park Hill buses and around 20,000 vehicles per day.