by Valerie Verkamp
A crowd of walkers and cyclists gathered early Thursday morning just southeast of the 64th Street and Chatham Avenue intersection west of Interstate 29 to celebrate the opening of the Southern Platte Pass Trail extension, which has been in construction over the past five months.
The one-third mile path links the expanding Line Creek Trail to the Southern Platte Pass trail, which is currently a 2.5 mile trail, but will be expanding another four miles west.
Prior to the ribbon cutting ceremony, Kathy Dusenbery, first district commissioner, said over the years she has witnessed pedestrians try to pass underneath Interstate 29 to reach nearby retail stores, restaurants, and other businesses “in a very unsafe fashion.”
Many of the pedestrians were trying to travel to work, said Dusenbery, who observed the walkers struggle.
“That's why this is important to me,” she said. Above and beyond recreation purposes this path will serve as a safe means to “get people to their jobs. This is the kind of trail connection that I would like to see more of, so that we can get people to work whether they have an automobile or not.”
Also present at the event was Jason Brown, presiding commissioner. He expressed that this “day was a long time coming.”
Brown said what is unique about Platte County is that “we identify the problems, we find a solution, and we get it done.”
Since the trail system merely connects with Clay County, he said, “all those folks in Clay County can come over here to God's country and they don't have to get run over to do it.”
Brown thanked the citizens of Platte County for their trust, which allowed the county to complete this project.
“We don't do really anything in Platte County without good partnerships,” said Brian Nowotny, director of Platte County Parks and Recreation.
He recognized Lee Ann Kell, district planning manager, and Mike Landvick, with the Missouri Department of Transportation, for their role in completing the “missing link.”
“We fully understand that the interstate is a major barrier when it comes to bicyclists, pedestrians, and non-motorized traffic, but this is a great connection and it helps us cross that barrier, said Kell.
Wes Minder was also recognized for his support.
Minder said this is the second completed interchange project in Platte County designed to provide relief in high pedestrian and motor vehicle traffic areas.
The first project, designed by Frank Weatherford and John Zimmerman, with TranSystems, was located on Barry Road under Interstate 29. Those same designers also worked on the South Platte Pass trail extension project.
Craig Bridgeman, with Mega Construction, who also worked on both projects, was recognized for the long hours he put in to ensure the overall success of the project.
At the county level, Nowotny recognized Noel Challis, senior park planner, and Nate Baldwin, county engineer with planning and zoning.
Nowotny said with all their help the project was completed “on time and under budget.”
Recently, the Platte County Commission approved a change order for a $16,962.05 cost reduction.
The total cost of the project is approximately $966,000. Two-thirds of the project’s total cost was matched by the Surface Transportation Program offered by MoDot.
The cost to the county is approximately $331,000 and will be paid by the funds generated by the half cent dedicated sales tax for parks.
The event concluded with Kathy Dusenbery cutting the ribbon to mark the official opening of the Southern Platte Pass trail extension.
Dusenbery said jokingly “it would be very fitting if we had a cone burning party now, because we had to deal with those stinking cones all summer.”