Blue River Rd and Lumpkins Fork Bridge dropped from GO Bond
Mayor questions Sixth District’s priorities; deannexation mentioned
By Kathy Feist
A meeting finalizing plans for Kansas City’s 2021/22 GO Bond projects put south Kansas City in the hot seat as Mayor Quinton Lucas questioned how certain infrastructure projects were chosen in lieu of others. The 20-minute discussion took aim at the Sixth District mentioning the likes of Raytown Rd., Blue River Rd., Kenneth Rd., and even the D word–deannexation.
After the Public Works staff presented the recommendations for the 2021/2022 GO Bond projects (see story for details), two deferred projects in particular–Lumpkins Fork Bridge and Blue River Rd.–drew criticism from the mayor as an example of curious priorities within the Sixth District.
Lumpkins Fork Bridge is a decaying concrete bridge located on Raytown Rd. on the outskirts of Kansas City near Grandview and Lee’s Summit. The Blue River Rd which starts near Martin City and winds north to 71 Hwy has been closed near its intersection with Chestnut Dr since 2010 due to flooding of the Blue River.
“How do we decide?” the mayor asked new Public Works Director Michael Shaw. “I understand Lumpkins Fork Bridge is an old county bridge that’s failing, etcetera, but I don’t know how it becomes a priority,” he said, pointing out a low populated area of Kansas City.
The mayor also cited 85th and Holmes Rd, “another significant complaint area”, or the 103rd St. Bridge near State Line Rd. as preferable projects.
“Given the choice, I don’t think [Sixth District Representatives] Kevin McManus and Andrea Bough would have picked this as a priority resurfacing project.”
McManus, who is on the finance committee, differed.
“Lumpkins Fork Bridge is a little different because it’s an actual bridge that has failed versus a series of potholes,” he said.
“I guess folks can change their route, but the way I look at it is: it’s our bridge, it’s in Kansas City, it’s failed, over 1000 people travel over it a day, and it’s our responsibility.”
“It sucks to fix a bridge,” he continued, pointing out the expense of the Bond and Buck O’Neil bridges which are state bridges that also receive city funding. “On these little bridges we don’t have any help and it sucks.”
“I think we have no choice but to fix the damn bridge because if we don’t fix it, no one else will,” he reiterated.
“The whole point of GO Bonds is we are going to fix our stuff.”
With McManus’ impassioned speech, he made a motion to amend the ordinance so that Lumpkins Fork Bridge will be on the 2022/2023 list of GO Bond project recommendations. The motion was approved.
“I want to make sure this gets fixed,” he reiterated. “Maybe someday we’ll deannex it and Grandview will take it back,” he joked. “But until then, it’s ours and we have to take care of it.”
Lucas then raised a question: at what point does the City decide to simply close a dilapidated road such as Blue River Rd or a failed bridge such as Lumpkins Fork? He suggested setting standards.
McManus agreed that policy was needed, and provided a cautionary tale.
“In every community meeting I go to, Blue River Rd. is something that comes up over and over again. ‘When is this road going to be reopened?’” he said. “To make a decision without a policy, to make a gut decision on whether a road is closed or bridges never opened lacks foresight.”
He said the city would hear from the public without some adequate input. As an example, he cited the recent decision to close 133rd St. and Inverness Rd. which amassed hundreds of calls from irate south Kansas Citians.
Currently, the closed portion of Blue River Rd.–which falls within the 5th District– is recommended by Public Works for repurposing into a bicycle/pedestrian trail.
Still wrestling with expenditure, Lucas brought up his “favorite” bridge, the Kenneth Rd. Bridge which connects Kansas City with Johnson County in south KC. The 364 foot-long bridge was recently rebuilt after being closed for 11 years. “Bridge repair usually prefaces a question from the neighborhood for road resurfacing, like the awful road condition of Kenneth Rd.,” he said. “A failed bridge is often close to a failed road,” adding that the cost for the 98-foot long Lumpkins Fork Bridge could grow from a projected $4 million project to an $8 million one.”
“I won’t get into a deannexation chat today, but that’s something theorists discuss from time to time, too,” he said, referring to Kansas City’s portion of Raytown Rd., and ending his discussion targeting Sixth District projects.
Members from both the Finance Governance and Public Safety and the Transportation Infrastruction committees approved the GO Bond projects for fiscal year 2021/2022 which go into effect May 1st.
Though there was much discussion on how decisions are reached regarding GO Bond projects, KC Public Works explained the process was more than just gut decisions. In a statement to the Telegraph: “We look at a variety of factors to determine what projects get GO Bond funding like the condition of the road or bridge, connectivity to other projects, leveraged funding (federal or PIAC), council priority, etc. We also participate in the multi-departmental Capital Improvements technical committee each year to select projects for the 5 – year Capital Improvements Plan. We are looking at ways to evolve and improve how we prioritize projects in coordination with council priorities and community needs.”
McManus later told The Telegraph that Lucas’ pointed questioning might have stemmed from concerns over the City’s plans to double the amount of resurfacing on Kansas City’s roads in the upcoming year. To achieve that goal, $20 million for residential street resurfacing was added as a new line item to the GO Bond, a fund earmarked for infrastructure repairs. Normally, funding for street resurfacing is not sourced through the GO Bond. But the general budget has been diminished due to the pandemic’s effect on the local economy, creating a $70 million shortfall in the city budget.
McManus set the record straight. He is not for deannexing. “There are no plans to deannex,” he reassured.
He also encouraged south Kansas City to make their voices heard regarding competing GO Bond projects. “The needs are greater than the funds available,” he explained.
“It’s important to remember that we have to advocate for these things every year,” he said. “South KC has to show up and make itself heard. Keep speaking up as to why these projects are important for the city. That’s what’s important.”