Bridging The Mighty Missouri

By Jerry Schleicher | September 28, 2010

Rendering of Christopher S. Bond Bridge, looking south toward downtown Kansas City. The cable-stayed bridge will feature three through lanes in each direction and extend 316 feet above river level. (Courtesy MoDOT)

By mid-2011, the more than 100,000 motorists who now cross Kansas City's 55-year-old Paseo Bridge each day will travel in style over the first cable-stayed vehicle bridge ever constructed across the Missouri River. The landmark Christopher S. Bond Bridge is the centerpiece of the Missouri Department of Transportation's (MoDOT) $245-million Interstate 29/35 Connections (kcICON) project, now under way near the northeast corner of downtown Kansas City.

The two-span bridge will feature a single reinforced concrete, delta-shaped pylon that rises 316 feet above the river level, and 40 cables radiating in a semi-fan pattern from the pylon. Offering a 550-foot main span and a back span of 451 feet, the 124-foot-wide bridge will initially open with three traffic lanes in each direction, but will be expandable to eight lanes of traffic in the future. The bridge design is also capable of accommodating a future pedestrian/bicycle path along the outside of the southbound lanes once connectivity is established both north and south of the river.

On either side of the Missouri River, the kcICON project will reconstruct and rehabilitate 4.7 miles of I-29/35 from just north of Route 210/Armor Road to the northeast corner of the downtown Kansas City freeway loop. In addition to adding traffic lanes, the project will improve five interchanges to increase capacity and improve safety for the approximately 102,000 motorists who travel the corridor daily.

The project contractor for what MoDOT terms the largest highway project now under way in the Kansas City region is Paseo Corridor Constructors, a joint-venture partnership between Clarkson Construction Co., Massman Construction Co. and Kiewit Construction Co.

Kansas City-based Clarkson is a sixth-generation, family-owned heavy, highway and site work contractor. Massman, fourth-generation and family-owned with headquarters in Kansas City, is a heavy, civil and marine contracting company with a century of bridge-building experience. Kiewit, one of the North America's largest construction and mining companies, is headquartered in Omaha, NE, with offices in cities throughout North America.

Project design is being handled by California-based Parsons Transportation Group, one of the nation's leading bridge engineering and construction companies, and TranSystems, a Kansas City-based architectural and engineering firm.

The kcICON project is one of the first three design-build MoDOT projects authorized by the Missouri Legislature. Brian Kidwell, MoDOT project director, says the flexible design-build method of project delivery has provided MoDOT and its contractor with opportunity to identify and employ numerous project innovations and efficiencies.

"We never imagined that our budget would accommodate a bridge of this magnitude," says Kidwell. "But the design-build process has allowed us and our contractors to achieve numerous project efficiencies, and has given us the opportunity to present Kansas City with a world-class bridge."

A Bridge Built To Last

The Christopher S. Bond Bridge is being constructed immediately downstream from the existing Paseo Bridge, which will remain in service during the duration of the project, and will be dismantled only after the cable-stayed bridge is opened to traffic.

The concrete footing that supports the bridge's center pylon rests on eight 11-foot-diameter drill shafts that extend 85 feet below the river bed. Below each drill shaft, 10-1/2-foot-diameter rock sockets extend an additional 27 feet down through hard shale bedrock.

Two barge-mounted heavy cranes have played an indispensable role in construction of the pylon supports and pedestal. Kidwell explains that the cranes were used to lift and position each of the 11-foot-diameter, 85,000-pound steel pipes that line the drill shafts. Once the pipes were in place, 'windchimes' consisting of 48 pieces of 85-foot-long rebar were lifted and positioned inside each pipe. Each drill shaft was filled with 280 cubic yards of concrete, while 1,450 cubic yards of concrete was poured for the pylon seal, 1,650 cubic yards for the pylon footing, and 500 cubic yards for the pylon pedestal.

When the pylon is complete and the bridge in place, cranes will be used to lift each of the 40 cables that will be anchored to the pylon. Each cable will consist of strands of woven and braided wire, seven wires per strand, with each strand measuring approximately 6/10-inch in diameter. The inner bridge cables will contain 60 strands, while outer cables will contain up to 100 to 110 strands each.

Kidwell says each cable will be tied to its designated location on the pylon, beginning with the center cables and working outward. The cables will be jacketed in high-density polyethylene pipe, and large jacking systems inside each tower will allow workers to adjust each cable to the proper tension.

Uniting Community Interests

Kidwell credits a close working relationship between MoDOT and numerous municipal, regulatory, industrial, and community interests with helping to move the project along at a faster than expected pace. In addition to working with a joint-venture partnership of three different heavy contractors and two design teams, MoDOT is also working with 15 Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) firms, and has set a goal of 13 percent of the project budget for DBE contracts.

"We're also coordinating with six different railroad companies who own three dozen railroad tracks that run under our project," says Kidwell. "We're working with the municipalities of Kansas City and North Kansas City, the Port Authority of Kansas City, labor unions, faith-based organizations, and Kansas City's Full Employment Council to help beginning workers pre-enter the unions.

"And since the bridge pylon will extend some 60 feet into the Federal Aviation Administration's conical approach service for Kansas City's Charles Wheeler downtown airport, we've also worked with the FAA and the Kansas City Aviation Department to confirm that the bridge will pose no hazard to aviation."

MoDOT also formed a Community Advisory Group, appointed by elected officials as well as civic and neighborhood associations, to provide input on the public's priorities for the project.

"The Community Advisory Group has played an important part in the success of this project," says Kidwell. "The CAG received 20 of the 100 total project points to evaluate the architectural style and bridge design aesthetics proposed by the competing teams. For example, their input ensured that the bridge will be just as spectacular in the nighttime as it is in the daytime. Each cable will be lit by a canon light, and rows of 3-foot by 3-foot LED panels on each side of the bridge will be programmable to an infinite number of colors and patterns, such as red during Kansas City Chiefs game days, or blue for the Kansas City Royals."

Urban aesthetics is also factored into other components of the highway reconstruction project. On the north side of the river, a welcoming gateway feature is planned for the south side of Armor Road/Highway 210. Integrated into a mounded landform, the wall will be illuminated and capped by a small beacon light fixture atop a metal pole, and is anticipated to incorporate a logo for the city of North Kansas City.

At the Front Street interchange on the south side of the river, retaining walls surrounding the bridge abutments will incorporate a complementary angular pattern. Horizontal banding on the support columns will provide additional visual interest. Low angular walls visually connect these columns to the ground surface, and bands of textured concrete will enhance the ground plane under the bridge.

Impressive Project

The statistics for the kcICON project are impressive. Contractors will excavate about 520,000 cubic yards of dirt for the highway widening, and use 26,000 tons of asphalt and 50,000 cubic yards of concrete. It will take nearly 8 million pounds of steel to build the bridges and highway structures, and the project will add about 185,000 square feet of noise walls and retaining walls along the I-29/35 corridor. More than 36,000 tons of material will be recycled, including more than 6,000 tons from the existing Paseo Bridge.

Financing for the $245-million kcICON project includes $195 million in state funds and $50 million in federal SAFETEA-LU funds. The project is projected to be completed by Oct. 31, 2011.


History Of Kansas City's Bridges

In 1821, when French trader Francois Chouteau established a trading post near the site of present-day Kansas City, the Missouri River supplied the region's only mode of travel. Another 48 years would pass before Kansas Citians would construct the first bridge across the Missouri, a $1.2-million wrought iron railroad bridge sitting on limestone piers, with a swing section to allow steamships to pass through.

The Hannibal Bridge was replaced by a new bridge in 1917, one with a lower deck for trains and an upper deck for motor vehicles. It remained in service until completion of the present Broadway Bridge in 1956, and the rail deck remains in use today.

Today, seven public bridges, including the Paseo Bridge, span the Missouri in metropolitan Kansas City. Built in 1952-54 and rehabilitated in 2005, the venerable Paseo Bridge presently carries 102,000 motorists each day, nearly four times the total Kansas City population of 1869. In October 2011, the Christopher S. Bond cable-stayed bridge will replace the aging Paseo Bridge, providing a landmark bridge that is expected to serve Kansas City well into the next century.