Michael Bushnell

The Independence Avenue Bridge’s truck eating days may be coming to a close if a plan to install an early warning curtain system gets funding.
Kansas City Terminal Railway (KCTY),which owns the bridge, and the City of Kansas City announced last week that they have entered into a cost sharing agreement to split the cost, roughly $150,000, of installing advanced warning devices on each side of the 12-foot tall bridge.

The devices consist of an extended cross arm over the traffic right-of-way with long, plastic cylinders hanging on chains at the height of the low clearance bridge. The dangling cylinders are designed to strike the front part of any over-height vehicle, making enough noise to alarm the driver in time to stop prior to striking the bridge.

Similar devices are being used in San Antonio, Texas, and Seattle, Wash., and have been relatively successful in quelling bridge strikes.

The infamous Independence Avenue railroad bridge was constructed in 1912 when trucks didn’t even begin to approach the 80,000-pound, 13’ 6” tall behemoths that regularly get wedged underneath. The standard clearance for overpasses, established in 2005, is now 16 feet, roughly four feet taller than the Avenue overpass.

According to Shawn Lauby, Director of Safety and Administration, KCTY has studied options for raising the bridge, but those options run into the millions of dollars, given the utility rights-of-way under the pavement and the potential for flooding.

“We tried to utilize sensors for detecting collisions, but we were unsuccessful because the vibrations from truck collisions were hardly distinguishable from a normal train passing overhead,” Lauby said in a prepared release.

Installation would be in advance of any “escape” intersection so trucks could re-route and not get caught trying to back a large vehicle up in heavy traffic. Once funding for the project is identified, construction would start shortly thereafter, possibly as soon as the first quarter of 2023.