South KC Perspective
By John Sharp
The three largest umbrella neighborhood organizations in south Kansas City jointly have requested the city to prioritize funding to allow the reopening of closed portions of Blue River Rd. as soon as possible.
The Center Planning & Development Council, Southern Communities Coalition and the South Kansas City Alliance made the request to City Manager Brian Platt and sent copies to the mayor and city council and to the Board of Parks & Recreation Commissioners.
Blue River Rd. has been closed for several years from immediately south of the 3&2 baseball fields just south of Bannister Rd. on the north to Chestnut Dr. south of I-435 on the south due to failures of the subgrade (much of which was fill material) which began sliding down toward the Blue River channel on the west side of the road in several places.
This closure prevented prompt access from the north by ambulances and other emergency vehicles to the large Blue River Rehabilitation Center at 10425 Chestnut Dr. which provides both assisted living services and skilled nursing care.
In 2019, the section of Blue River Rd. from Hickman Mills Dr. on the west side of U.S. 71 Highway on the east to Prospect Ave. on the west was closed and barricaded due to additional subsurface failures, thus reducing access to the southern portion of the Dodson Industrial Area and the major employers located there.
Since the closures, the remaining open sections of the road between the two closures have been plagued by illegal dumping.
The south Kansas City organizations noted in their request that besides being one of the most scenic street corridors in Kansas City that was frequently traveled by sightseers, Blue River Rd. is a vital north-south connector in south Kansas City.
“With the availability of new federal infrastructure funding, this is an ideal time to proceed with long overdue bank stabilization and properly rebuild this vital connector from the U.S. 71 Highway corridor to Chestnut Dr. so it will not be at risk for future failures,” the request stated.
Some preliminary design work for reopening the road has already been done. Funding for that work was recommended by the Public Improvements Advisory Committee that I serve on and approved by the then 5th and 6th District council members.
The U.S. Corps of Engineers also contributed funding for preliminary design work for bank stabilization along the Blue River to prevent future subgrade failures. The Corps can pay up to 65 percent of approved bank stabilization costs for the project up to a $5 million ceiling on Corps funding, but will not pay any of the costs of actual street reconstruction. Generally, the Corps does not fund design work on projects unless it intends to fund its share of the actual construction.
For the Blue River Rd. project, bank stabilization is expected to be a major cost.