KC Council urges MoDOT not to close Manchester interchange

The Kansas City Council today urged the Missouri highway department not to close the Manchester interchange on I-70.

The council voted to oppose the Missouri Department of Transportation proposal to close the interchange as part of a $32 million plan to fix the bottleneck at the neighboring I-435/I-70 interchange to the east.

The resolution came in response to business owners who claim closing the interchange will hurt their livelihoods because it will restrict access to their businesses.

State highway engineers believe the interchanges at Manchester and I-70/435 are too close together, posing a potential safety threat with drivers weaving in and out as they try to enter and exit I-70.

They have pointed out there has been no quantification of just how much the business owners near Manchester will be affected by closing the interchange, which handles about 7,000 vehicles a day.

The resolution calls on MoDOT to work with business owners near the Manchester interchange to find a way to keep it open while continuing to support relieving congestion at I-70/435.

It’s unclear just how much of an impact that Kansas City’s opposition will have on the project, which is funded partly with federal stimulus money that has to be spent by next March. The project is set to begin early next year and be completed by by 2012.

The Federal Highway Administration has to sign off on MoDOT’s plans, which will add a third through lane at the I-70/I-435 interchange in order to help improve traffic flow in area traveled by 200,000 vehicles a day.

State highway officials are worried that Kansas City’s opposition could raise a flag at FHWA, which could require more work on the project and subsequently push it up against the March deadline for spending the stimulus money.

MoDOT said it still plans to proceed with the project “unless there is a significant reason to stop.”

They have warned the city that they might have to shift the money from I-70/I-435 to other projects if this particular one is stymied.

MoDOT engineers said there is a system of ramps that could be designed to keep Manchester open while improving I-70 traffic flow, but that would cost an extra $53 million.

MoDOT is planning other road work near the Manchester interchange to keep the area as accessible as possible.

The agency plans to improve the I-70 interchange at U.S. 40/31st Street and at the intersection of Manchester Trafficway and U.S. 40 to help compensate for closure. They also plan to build a new half interchange at U.S. 40 and I-435 north of I-70.

The I-70/435 interchange has been one of the region’s top transportation priorities for years. MoDOT was able to start work on the interchange when Congress passed the $787 billion stimulus bill earlier this year.

The current project is the first of several phases for fixing the entire interchange, which could run more than $250 million.