Interstate 229 forms an urban loop west from I-29 through the city of St. Joseph. The freeway carries four overall lanes with rural stretches leading through Buchanan County to the south and Andrew County to the north. Through Downtown and along the Missouri Riverfront, I-229 combines with U.S. 59 along a double deck freeway.
2015 traffic counts recorded by MoDOT peaked at 16,810 vehicles per day (vpd) east of Exit 1D (Route 752), while the roadway north of Exit 11 (Highway K) was lightly traveled with just 4,646 vpd tallied. St. Joseph is also served by a business loop from Interstate 29 along a combination of surface streets and shared alignments with U.S. 59 and U.S. 169.
Flyovers join the double deck freeway with Downtown St. Joseph as Interstate 229/U.S. 59 travel between railroad lines and the St. Joseph Riverwalk. 06/18/15
An emergency closure of the double deck section of I-229 followed reports of falling debris recorded on June 4, 2015.2 The aging structure and increasing repair costs to maintain it have engineers pondering the future of the route. A 2016 estimate for a major rehabilitation of the bridge was about $50 million. If completed, the work would extend the lifespan of the elevated structure by 20 to 25 years. An alternative discussed by city leaders, highway engineers and residents involves replacing the freeway with an at-grade parkway. Costing less to maintain, the non-freeway design might also open up riverfront areas for redevelopment.3
A 16 to 18 month Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) study with public input considers an array of alternatives for the future of Interstate 229 through St. Joseph. Options range from retaining the existing Double Decker Bridge, replacing it with a new elevated structure, removing it and separating I-229 into separate spurs into Downtown, and replacing I-229 with an at-grade boulevard or a parkway option with roundabouts. Other options considered upgrading existing streets through Downtown with the elevated structure demolished.
Lobbying efforts from the publisher of the News-Press, Henry D. Bradley and others pushed for Interstate 229 through St. Joseph. The route was intended to draw traffic back into St. Joseph that was otherwise bypassing the city to the east along I-29. Land acquisition difficulties led to the double deck design through the Downtown area as a way to complete the route.1
Interstate 229 opened initially from I-29 south of St. Joseph to Missouri Route 371 (S 22nd Street) by 1970. Costing $20 million, the double deck section of I-229 was built in phases between 1977 and 1986. A weather-damaged portion of the viaduct was completed in 1979.2,3