Freight Summit about Interstate 229

Engineers are looking at the future of the Interstate 229 bridges, but could see a setback after the Metropolitan Planning Organziation committee voted to deny support for the declassification of the interstate.

St. Joseph’s Metropolitan Planning Organization is asking for more information about how the Missouri Department of Transportation decided on its final alternatives for Interstate 229.

At the 2019 Northwest Missouri Freight Summit last week, MoDOT displayed two options for the future of the I-229 bridge in Downtown St. Joseph that are considered finalists for a redesign. Both involve the removal of the double-decker bridge.

On Thursday, those alternatives were presented to the MPO Technical Committee, who voted down writing a letter of support for the declassification of the interstate.

MPO Transit Planning Manager Chance Gallagher said changing the status of the interstate to be simply a highway or regular road would give MoDOT the option to alter it into either of the two plans that they are interested in.

“MoDOT was seeking (declassification) so that there would be more options for design,” Gallagher said. “With the interstate status, there’s only a specific way you can design the bridge or the roadway. Declassifying it opens it up for a lot more ideas and different ways to present the environmental assessment.”

She said the majority of the members on the committee thought the request was premature since there is not a single design picked yet, and some wanted more information on how MoDOT came to settle on these two alternative plans out of the 20 that they started with.

She said there also were concerns about historic preservation, since the alternatives could see traffic diverted down Main Street or roundabouts built Downtown.

She said denying the support for declassification does not stop planning or work, but will not allow plans that would see the bridge razed to move forward.

“They can still move forward with the different scenarios or reasonable alternatives for the actual bridge, but the letter of support kind of hinders their ability to get rid of the interstate,” Gallagher said.

MoDOT is expected to present information to the MPO about how they arrived at the two potential alternatives in January, but the MPO is not expected to vote at that time.

Brendan Welch can be reached at brendan.welch@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPWelch.