Deal reached to install new warning system for Independence Avenue bridge

Published: Dec. 8, 2022 at 10:01 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 9, 2022 at 8:19 AM CST
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - A plan to install a warning height clearance curtain for the Independence Avenue Bridge is one step closer to reality.

The city and KCT Railway have agreed to split the costs which are estimated to be around $150,000.

“My hope is that this is something that gets done in the first quarter of next year. There is no reason why it really cannot be done,” said Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas. “I know it’s funny, but it really can become a real risk not just to the trucks themselves, not just to drivers, but also to anyone who’s either driving or walking down Independence Avenue.”

Shawn Lauby, Director of Safety & Administration for KCT Railway sent KCTV5 this statement:

Due to some creative ideas from KCMO Public Works and our engineering partners at TranSystems, KCT Railway has entered into a Cooperative Agreement to cost-share in the City’s construction and installation of overhead, advance “warning curtains” on each side of the bridge.

A plan to install a warning height clearance curtain for the Independence Bridge is one step...
A plan to install a warning height clearance curtain for the Independence Bridge is one step closer to reality.(Greg Milota/KCTV5)

The city and railroad both agree it’s too expensive to raise the bridge or lower the street. And some of those ideas could lead to other potential problems- like flooding.

It’s clear that signs and flashing lights are not enough to deter tractor-trailers from trying to squeeze under the bridge. There have been 32 crashes since January 2020.

It’s become a running joke as people watch videos or pictures of the crashed truck and proclaim the bridge “undefeated!”

The Independence Avenue bridge was constructed in 1912. It has 12 feet of clearance. A standard height tractor-trailer of 13 and a half feet. Newer bridges must have a height clearance of 16 feet, but that wasn’t established until 2005.

The low-tech idea comes from San Antonio which had a similar problem. An old bridge with an even lower clearance, 11 feet. They hung plastic cylinders off a mast poll. The flashing signs didn’t grab attention.

“And if they hit those curtains, it would give them the idea to stop thinking about it and turn. Once we put on those curtains, it worked very well,” said Paul Berry with San Antonio Public Works. “We had one crash about six months after we put in the curtains five years ago, and we haven’t had any since.”

Spokane, Washington, reports similar success. They installed height curtains about a year ago and so far there have been no crashes.

ALSO READ: Truckers question safety of Independence Avenue Bridge