Tolling remains option as Centennial Bridge replacement project progresses

Officials from the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) were on hand on Tuesday, July 21 at the Platte County Community Center North to answer questions and provide a progress update for the ongoing Centennial Bridge/Route 92 study. About 20 people attended the event in the community room of the YMCA with a second meeting scheduled for Thursday in Leavenworth, Kan. Since the last public meeting held in mid-January, KDOT has continued through the preliminary steps to replace the 60-year-old bridge.

BRYCE MERENESS/Citizen photo A study is underway to determine the best way to replace Centennial Bridge, which connects Platte County, Mo. and Leavenworth County, Kan. Options to fund the project include an undetermined toll. Public hearings were held last week to inform the public on the progress of the studies.

The new information Tuesday included traffic origination numbers and assessing alternatives to replacing the current bridge in its current location.

“(Since the last meeting) we’ve firmed up some of the costs involved,” KDOT road designer and project manager Kris Norton said. “We did a destination study to find out who uses the bridge and where they came from and where they are going so we can understand the needs.”

Norton said that about 14,000 cars use the bridge each day and 91 percent of traffic that uses the bridge has a terminus — either begins or ends — in Leavenworth.

Constructed in 1955, the Centennial Bridge spans the Missouri River continuing on as K-92 Highway on the Kansas side and Route 92 in Missouri. This connects communities in northeast Kansas, including Leavenworth and Lansing, with Kansas City’s Northland, including Platte City and Kansas City International Airport.

“While the Centennial Bridge remains structurally sound and could continue as such with maintenance, the lateral and vertical obstructions of the bridge design type make the existing bridge functionally obsolete,” KDOT said in a informational packet about the project. “Reuse of the bridge for vehicular traffic is significantly constrained, and the replacement bridge alternatives under consideration do not include keeping the existing bridge.”

Much of the project still remains in flux, although one decision is firm.

The new bridge will be built either immediately north or south of the existing span and will mirror its overall length — about 2,300 feet. Alternatives to moving the bridge further north or south were deemed impractical so engineers have focused on three potential routes very close to the current location, two to the south and one to the north.

Regardless, an adjustment to 92 in Missouri will be required, going from two lanes of travel to four from the Highway 45 spur into Kansas.

Options include a traffic signal or roundabout, although officials on hand felt there was a clearly desired option. The roundabout tends to reduce hard-impact collisions, and the designs presented showed a way that one of the lanes each way would go to the roundabout, while allowing one dedicated lane each way that would not need to slow down.

One of the biggest question marks still remaining is funding. Both the Missouri and Kansas departments of transportation do not have enough funding to meet current needs, even before considering a major project.

Tolling seems the obvious answer to some but the final report on the feasibility is not due out until early 2016 at which point officials will have more public meetings to discuss the findings. A final recommendation would then be put forth by KDOT in July of 2016.

The bridge was previously tolled from 1955 to 1977.

If the recommendation is approved the project calls for an environmental impact study in 2017, design in 2018 and construction to begin in 2020 with the new bridge opening in 2022.

Currently there are plans to add a shared cycling and pedestrian crossing but that could be pulled if the need is not realized.