KC hoping for change to reduce wrecks on low Independence Avenue bridge ‘that eats trucks’

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — One neighborhood in Kansas City’s Historic Northeast has a landmark that strikes fear into truck drivers.

The Independence Avenue Bridge continues to be the site of numerous crashes, most of which involve large trucks that frequently slam into the bridge’s roof.

Two large yellow signs sit atop the bridge, showing the bridge’s height at 12 feet of clearance, but truckers have trouble seeing them until it’s too late.

Business operators along that stretch of Independence Avenue near Wilson Avenue said its common to see 18-wheelers or large box trucks tangled and stuck underneath the World War I-era bridge.

“It’s just a big ole boom,” said Eddie Mousallet, who owns the Express Stop gas station near the bridge. “There’s nothing telling them until they get to the bridge that you have to be 12 feet and under.”

The bridge is maintained by Kansas City Terminal Railway. Shawn Lauby, a spokesperson for the railway, told FOX4 the bridge was built in 1912, and it was originally meant for horses and buggies — not cars and trucks.

Lauby said lowering the roadway would be tough because the space underneath that section of Independence Avenue contains water and sewer lines. Lauby also said raising the bridge height wouldn’t be possible either since the railroad tracks are already elevated.

A social media channel dedicated to the bridge is drawing popularity. That site refers to “the bridge that eats trucks,” and while its anonymous owner said that expression is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, the page also wonders why more isn’t being done to improve the situation.

Bobbi Baker-Hughes, director at the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, said the situation frustrates her and local business operators along Independence Avenue.

Homeless people often sleep under the bridge. Baker-Hughes worries the crashes could lead to worse than fender-benders.

Various leaders in the community have approached Kansas City’s Department of Public Works with ideas, such as more warning signs and lights or devices that would prompt truckers to check their trucks’ height before they run into trouble.

“It affects the safety of our pedestrians, of which we have many,” Baker-Hughes said. “It also affects our businesses. When traffic stops at that bridge because of an accident, our residents and others who are shopping in our district can’t get there.”

Maggie Green, a spokesperson for Kansas City Public Works, said the city hopes the official highway designation will no longer be in place for Independence Avenue.

Green said that could happen in 2021, and it would prompt more truckers to take Interstate 70 and Interstate 435 instead of driving under the bridge.

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