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50-Year-Old Dream Comes True for Missouri Drivers

Sat June 24, 2000 - Midwest Edition
Megan Nichols

When Bruce R. Watkins Drive opens in Kansas City, MO, in 2002, it will be the realization of a fifty-year-old dream. In 1951, the City Planning Commission of Kansas City first seized on the idea of a road to connect the south to the north. Initially called the South Midtown Roadway (SMR), the corridor evolved over the decades into the Bruce R. Watkins Drive — an integral part of the city’s highway master plan.

The four lane divided highway is now open from 31st Street south to the Grandview Triangle. Additional projects will build the final stretch of Bruce R. Watkins from 31st Street to the downtown loop. With a cost of $215.3 million, the entire project is slated for completion by 2002.

Phase IV: Newly Complete

In July 1999, a new stretch of Bruce R. Watkins Drive opened at a construction cost of approximately $60 million. It includes two massive, 334- meter (1,100 ft.) bridges with towering columns, as well as a number of smaller, equally ornate bridges. The fourth of a total of five sections that will complete Bruce R. Watkins Drive, the 3.52-kilometer (2.2 mi.) stretch of road includes stone facades, wrought iron detailing, and specially designed light posts.

The entire community celebrated completion of another portion of the picturesque parkway. On hand for the opening of the fourth section were Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) Director Henry Hungerbeeler, Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes, former Mayor Emanuel Cleaver II, President of Kansas City Parks and Recreation Commissioner Bob Lewellen, Missouri Highway Commissioner Ollie Gates, and consulting engineers from HNTB.

Joining civic and state officials were nearly 200 other celebrants — local residents, neighborhood association members, city leaders, contractors, consultants, and members of the Watkins family.

Phase V: The Final Stretch

Phase V has been divided into the following two projects:

1) 11th Street to 20th Street/25th Street to 31st Street;

2) 20th Street to 25th Street.

Chris Redline, resident engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), is guiding development of the latter. The section between 20th Street and 25th Street is 1.4 kilometers (.88 mi.) and includes six bridges and 13 retaining walls. Ellis Construction is completing the work.

Paul Russ is MoDOT resident engineer for the first project of phase V (11th Street to 20th Street and 25th St. to 31st Street). “We started the last section in February 1999. Oct. 2, 2001 is the completion date. It includes1.6 miles of roadway, 13 bridges, and 14 retaining walls,” Russ said.

According to Russ, all contracts were let prior to 1999 with Kansas City- based Clarkson Construction Co. receiving the contract for the final stretch of roadway (project two of phase V).

MoDOT and Clarkson Construction Co. have entered into a formal partnering agreement. At the start of the project, an independent facilitator conducted a day session for both parties. “We went through the entire project and discussed problems we would encounter and methods to prevent the problems or to solve them,” said Rich Markey, Clarkson Construction Co. project manager.

In addition to Rich Markey, Clarkson Construction Company’s on-site project team is lead by Dick Warner and Bob Montgomery, site superintendents.

With a contract of approximately $32.4 million, Clarkson Construction Company is doing bridge work, paving and some of the retaining walls.

Also working on the job are Pyramid Construction (site work) and Damon Percell Construction Company (retaining walls).

Construction is proceeding in phases. Following completion of the embankment and bridges, paving will commence. Work also includes building retaining walls and bridges (the substructure) as well as constructing decks on the superstructures. “We’re forming up for the decks, working on the bridge decks, placing the rebar, and then we’ll be pouring the concrete. We hope to be done with the superstructure by the end of this summer or the fall,” Russ said.

According to Markey, the depth of the concrete pour is 36 centimeters (14 inches). Portland Cement Concrete Paving (PCCP) is being used.

Currently, crews are also hanging girders, which presents a challenge since they are working over the railroad tracks of Kansas City Terminal Railway Company.

In addition to truck mounted cranes, there are rubber tired cranes, dozers, and highloaders on site. “We have several cranes on-site: a Link-Belt LS278 rented from Belger, a Link-Belt 138, and a Link-Belt 518; we also have some Cat 973 highloaders there,” said Markey.

In earlier project stages, MoDOT and job partners experienced difficulty with equipment vandalism. After trying several responses, the most effective solution was placing the equipment in locations readily seen by passing traffic and nearby neighbors. The problems were put to rest with involvement from the community, which has taken a keen interest in the project.

Kansas City Parks and Recreation Commission is assisting with plans for the environmentally conscious project, which includes protecting and/or developing green space surrounding the new corridor. Since the early 1980s, the Missouri State High Department (MSHD) and Kansas City have continued joint efforts in designing Bruce R. Watkins Drive as “less than a freeway, but more than a parkway.” Together, MSHD and the city considered engineering, landscaping and structural aesthetics while seeking public participation in the planning process.

“It has a lot of aesthetically detailed items built into it such as decorative bridges, decorative wrought iron and arched steel girders,” Russ said. “A lot of resources and attention are being spent on beautification.”

With finishing touches and classic architectural detail, Bruce R. Watkins is a unique corridor and welcome addition providing better access to downtown Kansas City.

Besides the final section that will take Bruce R. Watkins Drive to the downtown loop, there is more work ahead. Already, MoDOT has budgeted $5.9 million in federal funds to landscape the entire 16.32 kilometers (10.2 mi.) of Bruce R. Watkins Drive. Together with the city, it plans to use $1 .7 million of that money this fall when contractors should begin landscaping. MoDOT and the city have been meeting regularly to work out details.

As work on the final phase continues on schedule, MoDOT and the construction team build more than a 2.56-kilometer (1.6 mi.) stretch of road; they complete a south/north corridor conceptualized in the 1950s, adapted to meet the needs of the community and environment, and needed for efficient city travel in the 21st century.

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