Peculiar prepares for bridge closure

City also approves purchase of new city hall

Bbashioum@demo-mo.com June 22, 2012 

The upcoming closure of the interchange bridge connecting Missouri C and State Highway J over 71 Highway has been the talk of many Peculiar business owners and residents in the past few weeks.

The Missouri Department of Transportation has already began placing signage along the highway notifying drivers that the bridge will be closed beginning Thursday, July 5.

According to Peculiar City Administrator Brad Ratliff, the bridge is expected to be closed through Wednesday, August 15. However, MoDOT has offered an incentive to the contractor overseeing the project if work is completed ahead of schedule.

Crews will be stripping the bridge down to steel beams for a complete redecking project. The bridge will remain as three lanes, but a five-foot sidewalk is being added to the crossing for pedestrian use.

MoDOT, who is incurring the cost of the project, will also be providing additional reinforcement to the bridge due to the extensive amount of truck traffic incurred from Flying J Travel Plaza on the east side of the highway.

“I know we get several complaints about how rough it is to go over that bridge, and it is,” Ratliff said. “We know it is going to be hard on our local businesses because of people not being able get across the bridge.”

The ramps connecting the bridge from the 71 Highway will still be open during the duration of construction.

For traffic traveling north on 71 Highway needing to get to the west side of Peculiar, MoDOT is recommending travel to the North Cass Parkway exit, south of Belton, and then getting back on Highway 71 to head south back to the Peculiar exit.

For those traveling south and needing to get to the east side of town, MoDOT recommends drivers to turn around at the first Harrisonville exit (291 Highway).

Detour signs will be posted for traffic along 71 Highway.

Locals needing to get across town are encouraged to utilize 195th Street.

“(The bridge closure) is very much needed. We’re hopeful they’ll get it done faster than 35 days,” Ratliff said.

Ratliff said they chose the July 5-August 15 time frame as most of the city’s local festivals are in June and the school district’s summer school session would be completed by then.

The City of Peculiar and MoDOT held a meeting with business owners in the area, asking for their input on the situation. Ratliff said about 100 people were attendance.

MoDOT asked for a raise of hands on who would rather leave one lane open during the construction, which would extend the project to take about 90 days, or, if they would prefer complete closure that would take only a third of the time.

Ratliff said only three people voted to keep one lane open. The rest were in favor of full closure.

“It’s just going to being hard month on everybody,” Ratliff said.

As the bridge closure will disrupt normal traffic flow from the east and west sides of the city, Ratliff said the city is still working on the development of a second interchange in Peculiar.

In 2008, the City of Peculiar developed a master plan for the city. More than 40 public meetings were held and one idea was the addition of a new interchange at 211th Street, north of the existing interchange that will be closed for a portion of the summer.

The estimated cost of building a second interchange is $16 million.

“A lot of people were feeling one interchange for the community was not enough, and traffic was a problem,” Ratliff said. “MoDOT wasn’t interested in widening the current bridge because you have J and C (Highway) that were coming to it and would have to widen all of it as well.”

Ratliff said the 211th Street location was attractive because it connects over to the Raymore-Peculiar School District campus where more than 6,000 students and faculty travel to-and-from on a daily basis, and was also told by KCP&L that an area west of 211th Street was what they call the “Grandview Triangle of Power.”

“They said there is more power going through the northwest portion of the City of Peculiar than anywhere in Kansas City and there are only 13 locations that have that much power in the country,” Ratliff said. “We see that as a good opportunity if we open that area up for light industrial manufacturing-type of businesses to locate within our community and Cass County, as well.”

The city has received $8.1 million from a MoDOT 50/50 cost share funding project and voters approved an $8 million, 20-year property tax bond in April 2009.

However, the Board of Alderman and the city’s mayor, were not satisfied in issuing all of the bond responsibility to with taxpayers, Ratliff said

The city is planning to take out a $1 million portion of the bond next year to further complete additional design studies and to receive the right-of-way acquisition, but is looking for additional federal funding to reduce taxpayer contributions.

Ratliff said the city also would plan an improvement district around the interchange, as well, and any businesses that locate within that would be taking on a share of that cost.

“We just see this as a huge opportunity for the city,” he said.

Construction is set to begin summer 2015.

NEW CITY HALL:

The City of Peculiar is expected to soon close on property for a new city hall.

The Board of Aldermen recently approved the purchase of the former BC Bank, located at 250 S. Main St., Peculiar, for $485,000. The cost of the building is being acquired through certificates of participation.

The building is located near the West Peculiar Fire Station and next to the Peculiar Medical Clinic.

The 10,200-square-foot building, built in 2008 for $2.1 million, has sat vacant for more than two years due to foreclosure, said City Administrator Brad Ratliff.

The building will replace the existing City Hall 500-foot space that is located in a Morton metal building built in 1994 in a space shared with Public Works.

The City Hall staff is expected to move into the new space by the end of summer.

Ratliff said only a minor amount of remodeling will need to be done to the building for normal business operation.

The city has a RFP out to hire a commercial brokerage with national experience to the sell the property that has a high real estate value. If the property sells, the city plans to use the money to pay off the new City Hall building and build a new Public Works facilty on currently-owned property.

Ratliff said the Aldermen were interested in the new building because of the high value of the existing property and the desire to move closer to the downtown area.

“The BOA are committed to helping the downtown businesses and seeing this as a good opportunity that the building was close to the downtown area, which would bring more traffic through the downtown area and help the businesses,” Ratliff said.

Ratliff also noted that as the city grows, to be able to buy a building for $47 a foot was hard to pass up.

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