Low-hanging bridge in northeast KC keeps destroying trucks—can it be fixed?

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Photo by Caleb Condit and Rebecca Norden

A yellow sign with flashing lights delivers the warning: “12 FT. 0 IN.”

But every year, dozens and dozens of truck drivers fail to heed it, attempting to slip below the underpass on Independence Avenue in northeast Kansas City. Hundreds have tried, and all have failed—the sturdy railroad bridge leaves them lying on their side, smooshed or shredded.

In mid-November, three trucks were clipped by the bridge in just four days, bringing a new wave of attention to a curiosity that has even inspired its own Facebook page to document the carnage.

Believe it or not, this situation is unlikely to change anytime soon.

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Photo provided by The Bridge on Independence Ave.

The bridge was erected in 1912 and is owned by KCK-based Kansas City Terminal Railway, which enjoys protection from federal laws that aggressively protect railroad rights-of-way. The company doesn’t want to spend the money to rebuild this heavily trafficked bridge, says Maggie Green, a public information officer for the city.

Why not simply lower the road under the bridge or add more aggressive warning signs?

“It’s not like it would be impossible,” Green says. “It would be very, very expensive and more than just digging the road lower. You would have to configure sewer drainage infrastructure as well, and that would add to time and expense and project scope.”

Because Independence Avenue is a state highway, the Missouri Department of Transportation makes that call, not the city. That might soon change, Green says.

KCMO and MoDOT have been working together for the last year or two to take away that highway designation to make Independence Avenue a city street,” she says. “MoDOT has an order out for new signs to get the old highway signs taken off. Sometime in early 2021, it will no longer be a designated highway.”

In the meantime, the bridge will continue to claim trucks, the editor at the neighborhood newspaper will continue to “hot foot it down” to every accident, and a popular local Facebook page will continue to document it. The page’s administrator declined to do an interview with Kansas City, citing extreme anxiety, but did share the inspiration behind their “truck feasting” posts.

“It was started as a humorous little joke page,” they wrote. “I never expected it to get as locally big as it has. But, you know, truckers just keep on messing up. It’s fun to find humor in things, especially in these crazy times we’re living in.”

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