Michael Bushnell

After a series of delays, contract extensions and forced public engagement sessions, the low bridge warning curtain system has been installed on both sides of the infamous Independence Avenue 12-foot bridge near Independence and White Avenues.

The joint project, undertaken by the city and the Kansas City Terminal Railway (KCTY), was launched in 2022 in order to prevent trucks from striking the bridge so often. Built in 1912 as part of a four-bridge project along the rail approach to the city’s new Union Station on Pershing Road, the 12-foot clearance bridge has claimed legend status in terms of how many trucks have hit the bridge, leaving relatively little damage.

The other three bridges, at 9th and Hardesty, 12th and Elmwood, and 17th and Indiana all have higher clearances because at that time they were built the city’s streetcar line ran under the main rail line at those crossings. The Independence Avenue streetcar line however,  turned northeast on what is now Wilson Road and didn’t run under the Independence Avenue rail crossing so the extra clearance was not needed at the time.

 Kansas City Terminal Railway, owners of the bridge and the rail line that runs overhead, indicated that it wasn’t financially feasible to raise their rail-bed for over a mile in each direction in order to create a taller overpass. The city, tasked with the maintenance of Independence Avenue, stated that the roadway below could not be lowered due to utility easements that run under the pavement along the Avenue.

After decades of truck strikes and the bridge achieving legendary status, complete with its own line of “undefeated” swag, the new warning system was implemented in an attempt to quell the frequency of the truck-bridge strikes.

Mayor Quinton Lucas tweeted Thursday on the warning curtain installation:
“We love our undefeated champion, but want to ensure drivers and goods are safe and the bridge gets a rest from its eating schedule for a while.”

Critics of the new system say the warning curtains are not far enough back, stating that westbound trucks taller than the 12-foot restriction will be forced to re-route through private parking lots, potentially damaging employee and customer vehicles.  Eastbound trucks will have to back up almost 100 yards in order to “escape” onto Wilson Road. 

When asked if the city would take financial responsibility for any damage done to private business parking lots and any vehicles that are struck by an already inattentive transport driver, city engineer Nick Bosonetto declined to answer stating that “we have no idea what the impacts are but we’re more than happy to see what those are and work from there.”

Shawn Lauby, Director of Safety and Administration for Kansas City Terminal Railway, was pleased the joint project is now completed. “I’m glad to see this project come to fruition as yet another improvement to reduce these collisions,” Lauby said. “The results of this system being used in San Antonio, TX have been encouraging and we look forward to seeing similar results here in Kansas City. KCT Railway was happy to participate in getting it done.”

Below are links to our previous coverage of this project: