Courtesy of the Missouri Department of Transportation
The Platte Purchase Bridge and the Fairfax Bridge were both constructed more than fifty years ago to carry Route 69 over the Missouri River in Platte County. Today, these bridges are being promoted by the Missouri Department of Transportation to be preserved.
By Jonas Weir
Everything is better if it’s free, so why not accept a 2,602-foot steel bridge free of charge?
The Missouri Department of Transportation is giving away historic bridges to be repurposed or relocated, yet remain intact. If a bridge meets the criteria of the National Register of Historic Places, it is eligible for the Free Bridges program, in which eighty percent of the funding that would go towards demolishing the bridge would go toward helping relocate or preserve it.
“That’s the only time we do this—if they’re historically significant,” says Toni Prawl, senior historic preservation specialist at MoDOT. “Most of the bridges are eligible for historic preservation because of their engineering significance.”
The bridges currently being offered are engineering wonders. Two are more than 2,500 feet long and were built in Platte County to take Route 69 across the Missouri River. The first, the Fairfax Bridge, was built in 1935, and the second, the Platte Purchase Bridge, was built in 1957. Both feature five Warren trusses than span from 301 to 474 feet. They are monumental examples of steel trusses used for major river crossing.
Two smaller bridges, the Patton Bridge in Bollinger County and the Hughes Creek Bridge in Cape Girardeau county, are also currently being offered for reuse. The two bridges are more typical of the kinds of bridges that have been repurposed.
“Most of the time, these projects have involved county bridges because they’re smaller bridges,” Toni says. “We’re finding that recreational uses are really a popular way to reuse bridges—to incorporate them into bike and ped trails.”
One such bridge was owned by Buchanan County, and the city of St. Joseph relocated it as part of its Riverfront Park trail, which can be seen on the cover the April 2014 issue of Missouri Life.
These bridges have outlived their use for MoDot’s purposes because of various reasons, including having structural issues, not having pedestrian walkways, or being too narrow.
“You’d think you were going to lose your side view mirror because the traffic was so close on some of these bridges,” Toni says.
However, just because these bridges have outlived their use for the Department of Transportation, it doesn't mean they can’t work for another use. But remember that these bridges are being offered to be preserved.
“We’re not advertising these for scrap metal,” Toni says. “It’s to promote the preservation of the bridge. And it’s for public use.”
For information on these bridges and to submit your plan to MoDot, visit www.modot.org/freebridges, and if you’re interested in learning more on the department’s other historic preservation efforts, visit http://www.modot.org/ehp/historicpreservation.htm.