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Platte Purchase Bridge

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Platte Purchase Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth

Bridge Documented: June 5, 2016

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Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Northbound US-69 Over Missouri River and Railroad (Union Pacific)
Kansas City and Riverside: Platte County, Missouri, and Wyandotte County, Kansas: United States
Structure Type
Metal Cantilever 16 Panel Rivet-Connected Warren Through Truss, Fixed and Approach Spans: Metal 10 Panel Rivet-Connected Polygonal Warren Through Truss, Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1957 By Builder/Contractor: Kansas City Bridge Company of Kansas City, Missouri and Engineer/Design: Sverdrup and Parcel of St. Louis, Missouri
Rehabilitation Date
Main Span Length
475.0 Feet (144.8 Meters)
Structure Length
2,602.0 Feet (793.1 Meters)
Roadway Width
26 Feet (7.92 Meters)
3 Main Span(s) and 12 Approach Span(s)
Inventory Number

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)
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Bridge Documentation

This bridge no longer exists!

View Archived National Bridge Inventory Report - Has Additional Details and Evaluation

View Kansas Historic Resources Inventory Report For This Bridge

View Original Fairfax Bridge Plans

View Original Plans For Platte Purchase Bridge

This historic bridge was demolished by MoDOT in December 2016 - January 2017 (Its 1935 companion Fairfax Bridge span was demolished by MoDOT January 2015)

Unfortunately, HistoricBridges.org did not make it to Kansas City until 2016, which means that by that time, the older and more historic 1935 Fairfax Bridge which carried southbound US-69 traffic had already been demolished. Only the newer 1955-1957 Platte Purchase Bridge remained, with its replacement also under construction. The Platte Purchase Bridge was built to create a one-way couplet, with the Platte Purchase Bridge carrying northbound US-69 traffic

The Platte Purchase Bridge offered a good look at mid-20th Century cantilever truss bridge construction, and when its 1935 companion also existed, it provided a unique comparison to two eras of bridge construction. Featuring similar design, the two bridges displayed how fabrication details had changed over two decades, notably the decrease in use of lattice and v-lacing on built-up beams.

Unfortunately, while Missouri once had one of the most impressive and largest collections of cantilever truss bridges in the country, it is painfully clear that MoDOT seeks the destruction of nearly every historic cantilever truss bridge in the state (as well as other truss forms). As of 2017, this goal is alarmingly close to becoming reality. The rate and completeness of this destruction is remarkable... remarkably sad. Missouri leads the country in terms of high amount of historic bridge demolition with preservation/rehab examples (which are almost non-existent) being lower than other states, including states with far fewer historic bridges to begin with. One would think that with so many historic bridges Missouri would at least be able to save some of these bridges. This has not occurred however. The few preserved historic bridges are mostly municipal bridges in Kansas City and St. Louis for which MoDOT has no responsibility. At one time, Missouri shared its dubious distinction of destruction with Pennsylvania, another state noted for once-high populations of historic bridges, immense rates of demolition, and nearly non-existent preservation. However, Pennsylvania has demonstrated in recent years at least some modest effort to improve its reputation, Missouri has made no changes to its policy of unremitting destruction, despite "talk" of change. Talk doesn't count if it doesn't come with some actual tangible change, effort, and hopefully actual preservation outcomes.

The Section 106 Review for the replacement project provided the following historical context for the Platte Purchase Bridge:

Because of its age, the Platte Purchase Bridge is not included in the 1996 "Missouri Historic Bridge Inventory" which only examines bridges and culverts built before 1951; therefore, like other cultural resources in the project area, its historical significance must be evaluated. The northbound Platte Purchase Bridge (A0450), as depicted in Figure 5-2) was built as a sister bridge to the Fairfax Bridge in 1957 to increase traffic flow across the river. Despite the twenty-three year gap in their creation, the two bridges appear like twins in scale, form, and materials --their central trusses aligning almost exactly when viewed in silhouette. Like the Fairfax Bridge, the Platte Purchase Bridge is comprised of 15 spans; however, it is seven feet longer, for a total length of 2,602 feet. Other differences are notable in the approach spans, roadway width, and substructure. The symmetry of the Fairfax Bridge design is echoed by the Platte's composition featuring five steel Warren trusses that range from 302 to 474 feet each. From south to north, the Platte Purchase Bridge consists of six (6) simple span, steel plate girders; one (1) 302' steel simple Warren through trusses forming the approach spans; three (3) rigid connected continuous cantilevered camelback steel Warren through trusses measuring 417, 474, and 417 feet respectively and creating the main channel span; one (1) 302' steel simple Warren through trusses; and four (4) simple steel wide flange girder approach spans. It is supported on two reinforced concrete abutments, wingwalls, eight bents, and six piers. The bridge is 25 feet 10 inches wide, curb-to-curb, and carries two lanes of one-way traffic. As with the Fairfax Bridge, the consulting engineers for the Platte Purchase Bridge were Sverdrup and Parcel, Inc., St. Louis, Missouri, while the Kansas City Bridge Co. was the bridge contractor. Similar to the Fairfax Bridge project plans created in 1933 for Regional Bridge Co., Inc., the 1956 plans for the new bridge identify the client as an entity other than a state highway department: Platte County, Missouri. The name plate design accompanying the bridge plans states, in part:


Like its predecessor, the Platte Purchase Bridge was conceived as a toll bridge and once the debt was paid, emerged as a free river crossing. Although bridge technology was changing and more innovative methods were in use at the time of its construction, the Platte Purchase Bridge utilized some older construction techniques for its superstructure. The use of high strength bolts began to dominate bridge construction in the 1950s and 1960s, yet the trusses for the Platte Purchase Bridge were connected like those for the Fairfax Bridge, using rivets. The concept of form reuse and duplicate fabrication for the Platte Purchase Bridge saved costs, promoted similarity among the structures, and resulted in this late example from the riveted truss era. One contrasting feature between the bridges is the vertical and diagonal steel members used to support the main structural members. The Fairfax Bridge utilizes lacing bars - both single and double - creating a lattice effect, whereas the Platte Purchase Bridge features perforated cover plates (the larger steel expanses with regularly spaced oval openings). The latter (and later) technique helped speed up construction and was considered more durable.85 The Platte Purchase Bridge is among eleven surviving Missouri River bridges built during the 1950s. Formerly there were thirteen 1950s-era Missouri River bridges; however, one in North Dakota and one Missouri-Kansas bridge no longer exist. Three of the eleven extant 1950s Missouri River bridges are located in South Dakota; three serve both Nebraska and Iowa; three span the Kansas-Missouri borders, and two are in Missouri. Of these eleven bridges, four are Warren trusses, two of which are known to be historic bridges. The Forest City Bridge, a cantilevered Warren through truss in Dewey County, South Dakota, was erected from 1957 to 1959 and listed on the NRHP in 2001, although it was less than 50 years old at the time of its listing. The Blanchette Bridge in St. Louis, County Missouri, is a Warren through truss erected in 1958 that was determined eligible for listing on the NRHP in 2010.88 These two historic bridges, recognized for their engineering significance, have characteristics similar to the Platte Purchase Bridge.89 Although the Platte Purchase Bridge is not as old and perhaps not as exceptional as the Fairfax Bridge, it is historically noteworthy in its own right. The Fairfax Bridge established the first highway crossing, while the Platte Purchase Bridge expanded the transportation corridor, providing an important auxiliary crossing to accommodate greater traffic and promote the local economy. Removed in time by more than two decades from the initial opening of the Fairfax Bridge, the Platte Purchase Bridge was built during the more prosperous postwar era, yet still depended on funding from sponsors and tolling. The design and construction methods used for the bridge were borrowed from the earlier structure, thus it was not an innovative, but rather a late example. While it may not rival the early achievements of the Fairfax Bridge, it is MoDOT's opinion that the Platte Purchase Bridge also fulfills NRHP eligibility criteria under Criterion C for its significance in the area of Engineering. Both bridges serve as monumental examples of steel truss construction crossing a major river and their cantilevered, camelback Warren through trusses represent a distinct form. Like the Fairfax Bridge, the main span length of the Platte Purchase Bridge approaches nearly 500 feet and its overall length exceeds 2,500 feet. Multi-span truss structures like these are becoming rarer as deficient structures age and are candidates for replacement. While a number of major bridges (structures greater than 1,000 feet) exist in Missouri, few cantilever highway trusses over the Missouri River survive in Missouri. According to April 2012 data provided by MoDOT's Bridge Division, there are 27 major through truss highway bridges in Missouri. Fourteen of these bridges cross the Missouri River, nine of these are 50 years old or greater. Without the Fairfax and Platte Purchase Bridges, the list would be reduced to seven major state bridges of this type (through truss Missouri River highway bridges more than 1,000 feet in length built in Missouri prior to 1964).90 Historic cantilever through truss bridges have been removed in Miami, Hermann, and St. Louis County (the Blanchette Bridge), while the Washington Bridge, the Daniel Boone Bridge in St. Louis-St. Charles counties, and the Amelia Earhart Bridge connecting Winthrop, Missouri and Atchison, Kansas, are slated for demolition. The Platte Purchase Bridge has been altered little since it was erected in 1957. In 1997, a major rehabilitation project included redecking, new expansion joints, painting, substructure repairs and some structural steel repairs. In 2008, more structural steel repairs of the trusses were needed to combat deterioration. This type of minor rehabilitation involves the addition of steel plates and bolts to select members and their limited applicability does not affect the character-defining features of the bridges. The bridge is considered to retain its historic integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association, aspects which contribute to its eligibility for listing on the NRHP.


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