Public gets a look at plans for new Lewis and Clark Viaduct

Joab Ortiz, right, project manager with Burns and McDonnell, presented final design concept details for the Lewis and Clark Viaduct project on Wednesday evening at the Hilton Garden Inn, 5th and Minnesota, Kansas City, Kan. The red line on the map is the westbound I-70 bridge, which will be the first phase of the project. Phase 2 is represented by a green line and Phase 3, a blue line. The yellow line represents future phases. (Staff photo)

by Mary Rupert

The aesthetics for the final design concept for the Lewis and Clark Viaduct were unveiled at an open house Wednesday evening at the Hilton Garden Inn, 5th and Minnesota, Kansas City, Kan.

The new Lewis and Clark I-70 viaduct will cross the Missouri River from Missouri to Kansas. Currently, there are nine bridges that make up the viaduct.

The project is divided into phases, and the first phase is now what is being worked on, said Joab Ortiz, project manager with Burns and McDonnell, which is handling the design.  The first phase is replacing a westbound bridge, shown on the artist’s drawing by a straight line from Missouri to Kansas. A later phase in the project will change a sharp curve in the I-70 viaduct to a more gradual curve.

A year ago, the final design concept was presented to the public, and this week’s presentation was about how the project will look.

Based on earlier comments at meetings, the project design will emphasize connections to a hard-working community, blue collar values, the river, open spaces and a gateway to downtown, Ortiz said. The gateway area near 4th and Minnesota will still be in place.

As part of the “urban industrialized” theme design, an “Art Deco” look for the bridge pillars and other features is planned, Ortiz said. There will be some openness so people can see down to the river, he said, as public comments pointed toward a desire for connectivity to the river.

If a retaining wall is built in future phases, some sort of public art to tell the story of the community may be considered, he said.  Lighting for the bridge is currently under discussion to determine the best option for energy cost, aesthetics, maintenance and other considerations, he added.

The design intends to keep the same access to the different areas near downtown Kansas City, Kan., according to Ortiz.

For example, access from the I-70 bridge to Fairfax will not be changed a lot from what it is now, said Kevin Eisenbeis with Burns and McDonnell. There may be some improvements to those ramps in the future, and this part of the work is not in the first phase, he said. Construction on this Fairfax area of Lewis and Clark Viaduct will not start until a bridge project to the north is completed, he said. The Highway 169 bridge crosses the Missouri River and it is currently scheduled for construction, so the I-70 Fairfax work will wait until that is completed.

The 5th Street exit from I-70 to Strawberry Hill is still part of the Lewis and Clark Viaduct plan at this point. There are no plans to take any homes for this construction project, according to officials.

The construction project is not yet funded, according to officials. If it is funded, construction might start in 2017. The design phase has been partially funded.

“We’ve had very positive comments today,” Eisenbeis said.

Design work is scheduled to go before the Unified Government Planning Commission for approval this year. The final design is scheduled to be completed in the third quarter of 2016.

Construction of the first phase would be expected to take about two years or slightly more time. Ortiz said that once construction starts, I-70 would be closed during two construction cycles, and detours would be put in place. People would still have access to I-70 and this area through detours, officials said. A construction cycle is from spring to late fall.

In 2012, project officials estimated the cost of the first phase, the westbound bridge replacement, at $175 million to $199 million.

There also were representatives from the Kansas Department of Transportation and the UG at the meeting.

After community meetings, Joab Ortiz, project manager with Burns and McDonnell, said several concepts were identified for the Lewis and Clark Viaduct project, including connections, open space, gateways and aesthetics. (Staff photo)


Several people looked at design concepts for the Lewis and Clark Viaduct at an open house Wednesday evening at the Hilton Garden Inn, 5th and Minnesota, Kansas City, Kan. (Staff photo)


The new Lewis and Clark Viaduct will have an “Art Deco” look, according to project design plans presented Wednesday evening at the Hilton Garden Inn, Kansas City, Kan.
A timeline for the design phase of the Lewis and Clark Viaduct project was presented Wednesday evening at the open house at the Hilton Garden Inn, Kansas City, Kan.


Joab Ortiz, project manager for Burns and McDonnell, showed a drawing depicting future landscape options near the Lewis and Clark Viaduct. (Staff photo)

Ramp closure delayed by rain

A scheduled ramp closure today from northbound I-35 to the northbound I-635 ramp in Johnson County will not take place because of the rain, according to the Kansas Department of Transportation.

The ramp closure has been rescheduled between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Friday, April 25. The ramp was also closed Wednesday for attenuator replacement work.

Northbound I-35 drivers are asked to use the 18th Street Expressway interchange to exit and then may head southbound on I-35 to access the northbound I-635 ramp, according to KDOT.

Motorists are asked to slow down in the work area.


State says cities can’t regulate firearms; open carry scheduled to go into effect this summer

by Mary Rupert

One hundred fifty years of cities regulating firearms was taken away this week.

With a new law signed by Gov. Sam Brownback, persons will be able to openly carry firearms despite local city ordinances, beginning July 1, 2014.

“Get ready, because people are going to be able to walk around here with guns, openly,” said Mike Taylor, UG lobbyist.

The Unified Government opposed several parts of the bill, including the open carry of guns on city streets, Taylor said.

“I think that’s a gross disrespect of local control,” Taylor said. “Not all communities are the same. If you’re a ranching, farming county out in western Kansas, it’s one thing, but if you’re Wichita or Topeka or KCK, it’s a whole different kind of environment, and to have people walking up and down the streets with guns and swords strapped on their hips, it’s crazy.”

No permit at all will be required for open carry of firearms. Concealed carry requires a license, training and a background check. There are still laws in effect against felons carrying guns.

People who have no idea of how to use a gun could get one, strap it on and carry it around loaded, he said. Taylor tried to get an amendment for training, but that was not successful.

Unless a person is threatening someone with a gun, or is a known felon or a known gang member, the police will not be able to stop anyone with a gun, he added.

The state currently has made an issue of exempting itself from federal government mandates such as the Affordable Care Act or environmental regulations, but at the same time it is getting inside the local government workplace and mandating what it can or can’t tell its employees, he said.

“It’s hypocritical, and they don’t see it,” he said.

Besides guns, this new law also expands the state’s prohibition on local laws concerning other weapons, including knives.

The new law even prohibits local governments from implementing, administering or operating a firearms buyback program.

Additionally, the law says that local governments cannot require disclosure by municipal employees who possess concealed carry of handgun licenses.

Taylor said it may have to be researched to see if this provision may take away the UG’s right as an employer to regulate employees carrying guns during their lunch hours or breaks.  Currently, the UG policy says employees may have a gun in their car in the parking lot, but they can’t bring it inside the public building or workplace with them.

Persons will not be able to bring a firearm into a public building that is posted in accordance with rules set up by the attorney general.

The new state law also prohibits cities and counties from regulating the sale of firearms by persons who have federal firearms licenses.

The Libertarian Party of Kansas today sent out a news release thanking the governor and Legislature for the new open carry law. Libertarians had challenged the “patchwork of laws” of several local ordinances in cities in Kansas during the past few years.

“Now with the passage of HB2578 all ambiguities for law abiding citizens and law enforcement are gone,” the Libertarian news release stated.

To read the HB 2578 bill summary or the law, visit