MoDOT''s proposed plan to improve Interstate 70 angers neighbors in northeast Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Is it a major inconvenience for neighbors or a solution for drivers? That's the debate surrounding proposed changes to Interstate 70 from The Paseo to Blue Ridge cutoff.

I-70 was built in the 1950s and was one of the first interstates built in the country. The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) said it has some problems, but neighbors don't like the proposed changes.

Leslie Caplin is vocal about her love for northeast Kansas City.

"We are trying to bring fun activities to the community," she said.

Caplin is president of the neighborhood association, and right now, she is furious with MoDOT. She said one of MoDOT's proposed alternatives to improve the highway closes so many access points to I-70 that it isolates the northeast from the rest of the city.

"It cuts off 35,000 residents. It cuts off 150 businesses, and right at a time when we're trying to revitalize the northeast. It has always been, for many, many years, allowed to decay and not really gotten much attention from the city," she said.

MoDOT officials said I-70 is an important stretch of roadway. It connects Kansas City and St. Louis, but officials said it has some design issues that need to be fixed such as low clearance bridges.

"We do see trucks hit the bridges. The oversized loads have to detour around the city and around this corridor," said Matt Killion, a MoDOT engineer.

MoDOT said it wants to bring I-70 up to standards, and it has three proposed plans. In one plan, MoDOT would replace bridges and pavement as needed. That would not change the look of I-70.

The second option looks at improving the Jackson-Benton curves and improves low clearance bridges. The last option is an interchange consolidation.

The third option would close the Brooklyn Avenue, Truman Road and 18th Street interchanges.

That's the option that has Caplin concerned. MoDOT officials said they want public input to make a good decision.

"So many of our residents don't speak English, and all I have seen is English language information coming across. They also reach out by email, well I only have -- for our neighborhood; our entire neighborhood of 1,100 households -- I have maybe 150 email addresses," said Caplin.

Caplin fears not everyone will get the message. MoDOT agreed to attend a northeast neighborhood meeting in March. Officials said they plan to have a draft ready by this fall and they will reach a final decision by spring 2014.

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