As a new bridge is built, Kansas City seeks ideas from residents on repurposing the historic old bridge for a revitalizing new life

On March 3, 2022, Kansas City, Missouri leaders started seeking innovative solutions and feedback from residents to guide the preservation and repurposing of the historic, original Buck O’Neil Bridge, once the new bridge, now under construction, opens to traffic.

We have a unique opportunity to transform the iconic Buck O’Neill bridge into a new and exciting destination for local residents as well as tourists from all over the county,” said City Manager Brian Platt. “This project has the potential to become a national level attraction and landmark.

The City also issued a Request For Proposals/Qualifications (RFPQ) seeking a consultant to conduct a feasibility study that would develop options for repurposing the existing Buck O’Neil Bridge.

The Buck O’Neil Bridge has long been a fixture of Kansas City’s skyline, messaging to all who see it our community’s rich Negro Leagues Baseball history and pride in all Buck O’Neil accomplished in our City. Rather than unnecessarily demolishing a beautiful bridge with such deep meaning, we are seeking creative ideas for repurposing this bridge,” said Mayor Quinton Lucas.

I have spoken with state and federal leaders in Missouri and Washington, D.C. about this project and look forward to its progression, so all on both sides of our river may continue to enjoy,” he continued.

The study will gather public input, review engineering and technical aspects, estimate costs and recommend options.

The City hopes to stabilize and repurpose as much of the existing bridge as possible, with creative new uses that could include park and open spaces, restaurants, and other public areas.

One high profile idea is to turn the bridge into a linear park like New York City’s High Line Park.

We are very excited at the prospect of this historic bridge and vital piece of infrastructure entering a new phase of its presence in Kansas City. To see this once vehicle-dominated structure welcome pedestrians and cyclists to enjoy a linear park is something we are proud to see Kansas City and so many others in our region prioritize,” said Fourth District Councilmember Eric Bunch.

The unique opportunity to bring new life to this landmark for citizens and tourists to enjoy for many more decades will be a source of immense pride for all those invested in continuing to secure the legacy of Buck O’Neil,” he added.

This feasibility study will be conducted jointly by the City of Kansas City, Jackson County and Clay County with a $300,000 grant from the state of Missouri. The bridge is owned by the State of Missouri’s Department of Transportation. The study will evaluate the necessary rehabilitation to save this historic structure and the impacts to the Missouri River. The study will also develop options to retain the bridge, conduct public involvement, review hydraulic analysis and impacts to the Missouri River and its levees, impacts to adjacent railroads facilities, and investigate necessary federal and state permits.

Kansas City continues to move forward and is showing the country and, hopefully soon, the world this is a great place to live, work, and play,” said State Sen. Greg Razer of Kansas City.

As we construct the new Buck O’Neil Bridge, it’s important we think through what to do with the existing structure. Rather than simply tear it down, we have the potential to breathe new life into this iconic and historic structure, to the benefit and enjoyment of the Kansas City community,” he concluded.

The John Jordan “Buck” O’Neil Memorial Bridge is a triple arch bridge that carries U.S. 169 over the Missouri River and is considered eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).

Formerly known as the Broadway Bridge, it was opened in 1956 as a toll bridge by KCMO. In 1991, the toll was removed from the bridge, and the bridge and the US-169 designation for the section of highway over the bridge and north of the river were taken into the MoDOT transportation system.

Featured image courtesy of CONFLUENCE.

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