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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Town Of Kansas Bridge
Missouri River Pedestrian Bridge
Kansas City, MO

Town Of Kansas Bridge

• Structure ID: N/A
• Location: River Mile 365.9
• River Elevation: 720 Feet
• Trail: Riverfront Heritage Trail
• Daily Traffic Count: N/A
• Bridge Type: Steel Pony Truss, Through Truss
• Length: 635 Feet (Estimated)
• Width: 11 Feet (Estimated)
• Navigation Channel Width: N/A
• Height Above Water: N/A, 50 Feet Above Railroad (Estimated)
• Date Built: Summer 2002
The Town Of Kansas Bridge does not cross the Missouri River. Rather, it crosses the railroad tracks and a former industrial site in the River Market neighborhood of Kansas City. The bridge does, however, provide a connection to the Missouri River that had been missing in Kansas City for over a century as first the railroads, then later the flood walls, created a barrier that blocked off access to the river from the city.

The story of the Town of Kansas Bridge beings in 1993, when the Municipal Wharf building along the riverfront burned. The Kansas City Port Authority collected $500,000 in insurance money, and earmarked those funds towards a future heritage project. Later that decade, the city of Kansas City commissioned the development of a riverfront master plan. This plan called for development of a riverfront park between the Heart of America Bridge and the Paseo Bridge. It also called for a trail connection into the River Market district.

The Town Of Kansas Bridge was the first major component of this master plan to be built. Construction started in April, 2002, and ran through the summer. The bridge consists of a series of 6 pony truss spans each about 75 feet long, one 150 foot long through truss span over the railroad tracks, and an observation deck cantilievered out over the Missouri River. The supports for the north end of the structure land on the footings of the old Municipal Wharf building. Adjacent to the north end of the bridge is an elevator and stairtower structure, which allows pedestrians to descend down to the riverfront area. A short approximately 20 foot long steel girder bridge span connects the bridge to the elevator structure. The Town Of Kansas Bridge was completed in late summer of 2002, but did not open for several more months as cleanup work was being completed on the riverfront.

Next to be completed was Berkley Riverfront Park. This large park runs along the south bank of the Missouri River between the Heart Of America Bridge and the Paseo Bridge. Shortly after the park opened (around 2006), the Paseo Bridge was found to have major issues, and a new bridge, a signature cable stayed span, was given the go-ahead. Completed in 2011, the Christopher Bond Bridge added a signature element to Berkley Park, though it did result in a redesign of the eastern end of the park.

There were still two major voids in the riverfront park and trail system. First, there was no way to get between the Town Of Kansas Bridge and Berkley Park. This was solved with the construction of an underpass below the ASB Bridge, a railroad lift bridge whose unique lift mechanism is unlike any other bridge in the world. The underpass opened in January, 2010, completing a connection in the Riverfront Heritage Trail between the Riverfront West area (where the Town Of Kansas Bridge is located) and Berkley Park.

The second void was that there was no way to cross the Missouri river on foot or bicycle. Mo-DOT started a study in 2006 to come up with a solution, which they hoped to put in place starting in 2012. Four alternatives were explored, including adding a sidewalk structure to the Paseo Bridge, adding a barrier to the Heart Of America Bridge to create a bicycle lane, reopening the upper deck of the ASB Bridge, or extending the Town Of Kansas Bridge over the Missouri River. Each option had its issues. The Town Of Kansas Bridge was too low for river traffic, so it would need to be raised. The ASB Bridge had a number of safety issues, plus would require new approach spans. The Paseo Bridge option would have been expensive to retrofit. The issue came to a head after the Paseo Bridge issues came to light, and Mo-DOT wanted to build the new Christopher Bond Bridge without including bicycle lanes. A compromise was reached where Mo-DOT could go foward with the new Christopher Bond Bridge sans bicycle lanes by committing to immediately reconfiguring the Heart Of America Bridge for bicycle lanes. The new barrier-protected bicycle lane and walkway opened on the Heart Of America Bridge on October 1, 2010.

The Town Of Kansas Bridge is named for the village named Kansas that developed after a steamboat landing was established in 1834. This later evolved into the City of Kansas, which eventually became Kansas City. Kansas City was little more than a riverboat town until the Hannibal Bridge opened in 1869. This made Kansas City the the first east to west connection for transcontinental railroad traffic, and a key shipping location for beef raised in the old west. The stockyards were second in size only to Chicago, leading to Kansas City being known as Cow Town. There are plans to develop an archeological park and visitor center near the south end of the Town Of Kansas Bridge to preserve and interprete the history of the Town of Kansas.

Kansas City has made amazing strides in taking back the river and allowing its citizens to once again connect with the Mighty Mo. This is an example of the positive impact that government can have when it is firing on all cylinders. The result will be enjoyed for generations. If you can pick just one spot to see along the Missouri River, the Town Of Kansas Bridge observation deck should be that destination.

The photo above is looking north down the length of the Town Of Kansas Bridge deck from the corner of Main Street and East 2nd Street. The Missouri River is located just beyond the far end of the structure.


Town Of Kansas Bridge
These two photos are morning views of the south end of the bridge at the corner of Main Street and East 2nd Street. The rain garden feature and wooden benches were installed during the summer and fall of 2010 as a part of a city-wide project to hold and clean run-off water to reduce pollution in the area rivers.

Town Of Kansas Bridge
Town Of Kansas Bridge
These two photos are afternoon views of the south end of the Town of Kansas Bridge. The photo above is looking northeast, with the electrical substation for the Grand Avenue Station powerplant in the background. The photo below is looking north down the length of the bridge deck.

Town Of Kansas Bridge
Town Of Kansas Bridge
The photo above is the east face of the pony truss spans at the south end of the bridge structure. The photo below is a view under the bridge. This is a difficult photo since it is so dark under there, but the area that is in sunlight is very bright. The area under the bridge appears to be a popular place for people to hang out and smoke dope. While exploring the bridge site, I noticed two different groups of people smoking under the bridge.

Town Of Kansas Bridge
Town Of Kansas Bridge
These two photos are two views looking north down the length of the bridge deck from the southernmost bridge span. The photo above is taken from the east side of the bridge deck early in the morning, while the photo below is taken from the west side of the bridge deck later in the afternoon.

Town Of Kansas Bridge
Town Of Kansas Bridge
As we continey walking north towards the Missouri River, we transition from the pony truss spans to a through truss span. The thorugh truss span was required to carry the bridge over the railroad tracks below. This span is about 150 feet long, about twice as long as the pony truss spans, which are each about 75 feet long. The photo above is approaching the through truss span, with the Town Of Kansas Bridge sign standing as a gateway. The photo below is a closer view of the transition.

Town Of Kansas Bridge
Town Of Kansas Bridge
The photo above is looking north down the lenght of the through truss span. The bridge is covered with fencing on the sides and top to prevent idiots from throwing stuff at the trains. The photo below is looking through the north end of the through truss exit onto the observation deck. The elevator and stair sturcture is to the right.

Town Of Kansas Bridge
Town Of Kansas Bridge
These two photos are views looking west towards the through trus span as it passes over the railroad line and flood wall, with the elevator structure sitting on the river side of the flood wall. The photo above is a morning photo looking west along the Riverfront Heritage Trail with a deep blue sky as a backdrop. The photo below is an afternoon view looking into the sun as a double-stack container train heads eastbound.

Town Of Kansas Bridge
Town Of Kansas Bridge
The photo above is looking west towards the elevator and stair structure. The photo below is the opposite view looking to the east, with the observation deck on the near side, and the elevator tower sitting about 20 feet east of the through truss span and observation deck. The area blocked off by the chain link fence is the foundcation of the old Municipal Wharf building.

Town Of Kansas Bridge
Town Of Kansas Bridge
The photo above is looking east towards the through truss span. This afternoon view with the sun behind us also features a deep blue sky as a backdrop. The photo below is a closer view of the north end of the through trus span and the top of the structure supporting the observation deck. The elevator structure is to the right, connected with a short steel girder span about 20 feet long.

Town Of Kansas Bridge
Town Of Kansas Bridge
These two photos are looking west from the deck of the Town Of Kansas Bridge. The photo above is looking down the railroad tracks. The Second Hannibal Bridge is located just upstream, with the highway US-169 Broadway Bridge located behind the railroad bridge. Note that there is a coal unit train crossing the Second Hannibal Bridge. That is a very busy river crossing. Due to the slow bridge speeds, rail traffic can backup such that there is almost always a train waiting to cross the river The photo below is a view from the northernmost pony truss span. An access road runs under the bridge on what was once a railroad or trolley car right of way.

Town Of Kansas Bridge
Town Of Kansas Bridge
The photo above is looking east from the elevator structure. We see two bridges in the background. The bridge with the brown girders carries Grand Avenue over the railroad tracks and down to the riverfront area. The bridge with the green girders is the Heart Of America Bridge that carries high MO-9 over the Missouri River. Note the round structure on the left side of the photo. The photo below is a close view. This is a foundation pad for a fuel tank. It was built in the early 1940s when it was feared that if the war went badly, the US might need to base Navy ships in navigable waters to fight off German submarines. This fuel tank was built as a contingency in the event that the Navy needed to patrol the Missouri River.

Town Of Kansas Bridge
Town Of Kansas Bridge
The photo above is the base of the elevator tower. The photo below is the entrance to the elevator. There is also a stairway leading down to ground elvel from the top of the elevator structure. I recall it having 6 flights.

Town Of Kansas Bridge
Town Of Kansas Bridge
The photo above is looking south up the top flight of stairs towards the top of the elevator structure. There is a small equipment root located at the top of the elevator shaft. I regret not taking a detailed view of the steps since they contain an interesting feature. Bicycle tire U-Rail channels were installed in 2010 along one edge of the stairway. They make it easier for bycicle riders to walk their bicycles up or down the stairway. While these U-Rails are popular in Europe, this is the first known installation in the Kansas City area. The photo below is looking west towards the observation deck from the top of the stairtower.

Town Of Kansas Bridge
Town Of Kansas Bridge
The photo above is looking back towards the River Market neighborhood of Kansas City along the east face of the through truss span. In the photo below, we start our journey southbound back to downtown Kansas City end of the bridge. This is the transition from the observation deck to the through truss span over the railroad tracks.

Town Of Kansas Bridge
Town Of Kansas Bridge
These two photos are walking south through the through truss span over the railroad tracks. The photo above is from the north end of the span, while the photo below is at the transition between the through truss span and the first pony truss span. There is a small observation deck at this spot on each side of the bridge.

Town Of Kansas Bridge
Town Of Kansas Bridge
The photo above is a ground level view of the transition between the through truss span and the first pony truss span, with a small observation deck attached to each side of the bridge. The photo below is a view of the observation deck on the east side of the bridge.

Town Of Kansas Bridge
Town Of Kansas Bridge
The photo above is walking southbound on the pony truss spans, while the photo below is from the transition point between the southernmost pony truss span and the bridge abutment.

Town Of Kansas Bridge
Town Of Kansas Bridge
These two photos, and the 8 that follow, are signs and markers that are placed on and around the Town Of Kansas Bridge. The photo above is the Town Of Kansas Bridge name sign located at the southern end of the through truss span. The photo below is a historical marker near the south end of the bridge giving history on the original Town Of Kansas settlement.

Town Of Kansas Bridge
Town Of Kansas Bridge
The photo above is a banner from the River Market Community Improvement District. This CID was established by local property owners. They are attempting to move the neighborhood a little more upscale by increasing security and police patrols and by keeping the area clean. For example, a public mainteance crew sweeps the sideswalks three times per day and three bicycle officers are on patrol throughout the day. Green is in bold letters on the banner to highlight the efforts such as the rain gardens that have been installed throughout the neighborhood. The photo below is a trail intersection sign near the base of the elevator tower.

Town Of Kansas Bridge
Town Of Kansas Bridge
These two photos are tiles that are embedded in the trail as it passes in front of the bridge structure. The photo above points out a turn in the Riverfront Heritage Trail at the bridge site, while the photo below is mile marker zero for the trail.

Town Of Kansas Bridge
Town Of Kansas Bridge
The photo above shows the high river water levels from the largest floods since flood levels have been recorded. The top marker is at elevation 755 on July 27, 1993. The second marker is at elevation 754 and is dated July 16, 1844. The phto below is a closer view of the lower marker, which is at elevation 752 on July 14, 1951. Interestingly, the worst flood in recorded history occured on the Missouri River in 2011, yet the crest at Kansas City was only 736 feet (the 58th highest recorded crest). The base of the bridge is at about 748 feet, so both the bridge and the trail were well above the flood waters.

Town Of Kansas Bridge
Town Of Kansas Bridge
These two photos are bridge serial number plates. The photo above is on the south end of the through truss span, while the plate below is on one of the pony truss spans. These bridge spans were pre-fabridated at a factory in Minnesota and trucked down to Kansas City. Continental Bridge makes an excellent product and they are the gold standard for pre-fabricated pedestrian and bicycle bridges.

Town Of Kansas Bridge

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Authored by John A. Weeks III, Copyright © 1996—2012, all rights reserved.
For further information, contact: john@johnweeks.com