City of Platte City picked its poison by adding funds to Kentucky Avenue extension

The pavement can’t go down quick enough on the Kentucky Avenue extension project.

I’m sure most people involved feel the same way, but personally, I just want to end the explanations of process for this long-awaited arterial roadway in Platte City. You have to humor me at least one more time here because I didn’t have enough room last week to fully delve into why the City of Platte City decided to add about $270,000 worth of funding to make sure the road goes through.

Platte City city administrator DJ Gehrt gave the explanation after explaining his frustrations with the bid process.

The problems start with how this end of the Kentucky Avenue extension came together. Officials from the city, county, Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) and private businesses came together more than two years ago to discuss the best way to alleviate traffic congestion while also helping ease a current concern on Highway 92 that won’t go away.

Then discussions of funding started and the project was a good bet. Then MoDOT increased the scope of work. Then the project wasn’t such a good bet. Then QuikTrip came through with added funds and the project was a go again.

And that’s the issue.

The details changed throughout a fluid process, and eventually, the contractor estimates came in at about $1.35 to $1.37 million. The bids came in well over that to the tune of about $445,000.

Gehrt said the reason for the difference likely stems from that changing scope and also the cost to change traffic signals to accommodate the three-way intersection at 92 and Kentucky becoming a four-way intersection.

When the Platte City Board of Aldermen unanimously approved the change in funding last week, officials ensured that they can take a look at the bids and find out exactly why the overage ended up being so significant. Gehrt said he had been prepared for a difference but anticipated the amount being much more manageable.

Instead, the project went up nearly $445,000, leading the board to accept Platte County’s full commitment of a pledged $175,000 of contingency funding. From there, the city took on the responsibility to ensure the project would happen.

Gehrt has approached QuikTrip about increasing its commitment, but that hasn’t happened and he plans to operate on the assumption it won’t show up. Hey, nice surprise if the business kicks in more later.

But QuikTrip represents a big reason why city officials want this to happen.

Not only will Kentucky Avenue be fully extended in both directions, providing a four-lane boulevard style roadway running east-west through the city, it provides a perceived need to help the businesses. The current shared drive between QuikTrip and McDonald’s will become a public roadway that allows a second entrance/exit to one of Platte City’s busiest retail areas.

This will lock QuikTrip and McDonald’s into locations in Platte City for the next 20 to 25 years. 

QuikTrip already plans to build a new Generation 3 store on its property in an effort to increase business to its busiest store in the Kansas City metro area. McDonald’s has hinted at updating its location, as well.

You’ve got to spend money to make money, and that’s Platte City’s goal.

Increased business leads to increased tax revenues from two of its most important retailers. Without the Kentucky Avenue extension and a potential cap on customers served, both businesses could consider other options.

How likely is that? I can’t answer it, but the city clearly doesn’t want to find out.

To avoid testing those boundaries, the commitment needed to come now. The board’s approval came with a deadline looming the next morning that could’ve derailed the whole project.

Currently, MoDOT, local governments and private businesses have committed together. If they didn’t move forward now, MoDOT’s portion of the project — $500,000 — would have gone away. There would’ve been no guarantee that the parties could’ve regrouped and come back together with a plan.

The MoDOT schedule of work further blurred the situation.

Currently, resurfacing of Highway 92 is scheduled for the summer of 2017, which would’ve included the portion that meets up with Kentucky Avenue. Had that happened before this project became a reality, MoDOT’s portion of the funding would’ve went away as to not do work on top of recently completed work.

The Kentucky project helps ease another existing concern on Highway 92.

As Gehrt explained, the superelevation — the banking of the road as it bends around Kentucky to in front of the Platte County R-3 school campus — needs to go away. This project will address that not only at Kentucky but for several hundred feet in either direction.

That work also needs to be done so why not just do it now?

That’s what the board decided. The funding is there in reserves, and the city believes this to be a priority. 

If you agree with this belief, the city saved money by spending now and avoiding increased cost down the road. 

Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_Ross.