By Tyler Schneider
On Monday, Nov. 21, the City of Grandview held the official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the long-awaited I-49 Outer Roads Conversion Project—the largest infrastructure undertaking in the city’s 110-year history and the first of its kind to result from a collaboration between a Missouri municipality and the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDot).
The project, which had been in the works for over a decade prior to breaking ground officially on Aug. 17, 2021, centered around converting the I-49 outer roads between M-150 and Harry S. Truman Drive from a one-way system back to the pre-1980 two-way system and added three new roundabouts to the mix.
The ceremony featured Mayor Leonard Jones, several representatives from city and state entities, MoDOT, the Radmacher Brothers Excavation, Trekk Design Group, and the Grandview High School Marching Band.
Jones described the project’s competition as, “a blessing beyond measure,” offering his thanks to all involved and in particular highlighting the work of Grandview Public Works Director, Doug Wesselschmidt, who was brought onboard as planning was already underway just under three years ago.
“It’s a lot easier to start something and see it all the way through. [Wesselschmidt] was instrumental in picking up the torch and running with it,” Jones said.
From there, Wesselschmidt himself took to the podium just off one of the new roundabouts at the intersection of Main Street and the East Outer Road. The day before, Travis Kelce had again made history by recording three-touchdowns as the Chiefs dropped San Diego on the road to improve to 8-2.
“We’re not here to talk about the Chiefs, we’re here to talk about another winner—this project,” Wesselschmidt said. “We thank all the contractors, the city engineers, and the city representatives, everyone at MoDot, Radmacher, and Trekk, to everybody behind the scenes who were handling bids, making sure payroll was made, invoices and requests submitted.”
With the work completed, MoDot has officially handed over all maintenance responsibilities, including snow removal, to the City of Grandview. Wesselschmidt said the city will prioritize these areas going forward.
“We’ve already had the snow a couple of weeks ago to begin to figure out how to address those duties and our crews are excited for the challenge of taking on the maintenance of the roundabouts and the frontage roads,” Wesselschmidt said, adding that all highway maintenance would remain under MoDot’s jurisdiction.
Ericka Ross, MoDot’s regional engineer for Jackson and Cass County, took the mic from Wesselschmidt to provide some additional context behind the historic partnership.
“If you didn’t know, this stretch of I-49 carries about 90,000 cars a day. Cars constantly go up and down, exiting on and off in Grandview. This community is growing and this project was essential to help with that growth by creating safer and more efficient connections to the community,” Ross said.
Using a familiar expression, Ross told the crowd that it “takes a village to deliver on projects like this.”
“This project started with Grandview coming to us with this idea. You all got to see the construction of this over the last year or so, but there were two or three years before this where there was a lot of work behind the scenes moving all of the pieces of the puzzle together to get to where we are today,” Ross said.
As a result of the partnership with MoDot and other state and federal grants, the $15 million effort cost Grandview just $3 million—sourced from municipal funds generated from the transportation sales tax.
“This was the first [project] in the state of Missouri that was delivered by a city entity on a MoDot system as a design-build-delivery process, meaning we designed and constructed it at the same time” Ross said. “There have been more that have started since in the St. Louis region as well—but this is kind of one of a kind, it wasn’t heard of beforehand.”