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Are warning curtains going to end decades of truck crashes into the Independence Avenue bridge?

KCMO City Hall
Posted at 9:02 PM, Mar 06, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Warning curtains at the Independence Avenue bridge seem to be working — at least for the month since they’ve been installed.

Trucks crashing into the bridge have been a problem for decades.

That's why it's become satire for many people earning the title "truck eating bridge".

"I drove a truck in this area for almost 30 years on and off," said Jay Perry, a retired truck driver.

Even for Perry, hitting the bridge years ago was in a way his rite of passage.

"When I hit the bridge, I was young. I wasn't thinking. I was in a hurry, hurry, hurry," he said.

Now, there are added warnings, including clearance signs and the curtains so truck drivers can slow down and realize if they won't make it.

"The curtain has taken a beating," KCMO council man Crispin Rea said. "It's still standing, but it's taken a beating."

With it being in Rea's district, he wanted to explain the reason behind their distance from the bridge.

"You don't want it [curtains] too close to the bridge or too far from the bridge," he said. "There were easements and underground utilities that would be impacted if it went a few feet away from the bridge or few feet closer."

Rea said after having community meetings, engineers identified where the best locations were.

Through the years, people have questioned why KCMO can't make structural changes to the bridge or road beneath it.

"We don’t have any right to knock it down or build it higher. We’re strictly limited to what the railroad allows and that’s been difficult to navigate," Rea said. "What's equally as difficult is what we do under the bridge. We can’t grade the street down in a way that would threaten the integrity or foundation of the bridge."

Perry doesn't think the curtains are a long-term solution even with no crashes in the one month since they've been installed.

"They're nothing more than a distraction. They're like [the inflatable] in front of a car dealership — the tall skinny, flopping back and forth — that's what they are," he said.

The curtains are just one of a few changes to come from the city. Rea said accidents might be inevitable. The city's goal is to reduce how often they happen.

Engineers are evaluating the effectiveness of the curtain's design, Rea said.

The curtains are created to have a release function so the entire arm doesn't come down when it's hit.

They are also considering more signage for trucks that need to detour and find a way out.

The cost of maintenance falls on the city. KCMO couldn't confirm yet the cost of repairs when a curtain needs to be replaced.

"Let's do something about it," Perry said. "Let's keep it alive."