Fairfax and Platte Purchase Bridges Coming Down

Fairfax (left) and Platt Purchase (right). Photo taken by James Baughn in Aug. 2011

KANSAS CITY-  The Kansas City Royals baseball team finally snapped out of their doldrums this year and not only reached the playoffs in Major League Baseball for the first time since 1985, but was two runs shy of winning their first World Series in 29 years.  Yet the city has lost over half its pre-1945 bridges during that time span. With the Fairfax and Platte Purchase Bridges coming down this year, the trend seems to be continuing without slowing down.

Work is underway to replace the twin cantilever Warren through truss bridges that span the Missouri River, carrying US Hwy. 69 from I-635 in Kansas City into Wyandotte County Kansas. The spans feature a southbound span built in 1935 and a northbound span built 22 years later. Specifically, here are some details about the bridges:

Photo taken by the author in August 2011

Fairfax Bridge:

Location: Missouri River at US Hwy. 69 southbound

Built: 1935 by the Kansas City Bridge Company

Length: 2,594 feet total; largest span is 470 feet

Width: 20 feet

Last rehabilitated: 1979

Photo taken by the author in Aug. 2011

Platte Purchase Bridge:

Location: Missouri River at US 69 northbound

Built: 1957 (presumably by the same company)

Length: 2,601 feet; largest span is 474 feet

Width: 25.9 feet

Last rehabilitated: 1997

The plan is to replace the twin spans with one span that will accommodate six lanes of traffic. The project has already started with the southbound lanes being shifted onto the Platte Purchase Bridge and the Fairfax Bridge being demolished first. As soon as the new bridge is completed by late 2016, the Platte Purchase Bridge will follow suit. Both of the bridges, which had once collected tolls until 2000, had been made available for taking by the Missouri Department of Transportation until May of this year, when no takers were announced and the decision was made to turn these beautiful spans into a pile of scrap metal. The Fairfax Bridge, named after the city in Kansas, had been considered eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places The Platte Purchase Bridge was named after the Platte Purchase of 1836, where Missouri annexed the northwestern part of the state along the Missouri River up to the Iowa border, including the suburbs that belong to Kansas City today. That purchase was in violation of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which drew the border between the free states and territories of the north and those of the south, including Missouri. Yet the two are the latest casualties of truss bridges along the Missouri River that are dwindling rapidly in numbers. Since 1990, over 80% of the pre-1950 bridges along the second longest waterway in the United States have been replaced with only a handful of examples being kept for recreational and historic purposes. This includes the Paseo Bridge, located downstream in Kansas City. The 1950 suspension bridge over the Missouri River carrying I-29 was replaced by the Christopher Bond Bridge in 2010 and later removed. While Kansas City still has a large number of historic bridges, including those along the Missouri and Kansas Rivers, as will be shown in the Chronicles’ tour guide, the numbers are decreasing. And with the Fairfax and Platte Purchase Bridges coming down within the next two years, we could see numerous other examples being torn down in favor of modern but bland structures less appealing to travelers and tourists. While the Royals may have woken up after a long sleep and suddenly become contenders again, it is time for the rest of the city to wake up, look at their heritage and see to it that some of it is saved before it is too late- before we can only see them on youtube videos, as seen below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mBydOiZ02g

More on the bridge replacement project can be found here.

 

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