Saturday, April 10, 2021
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Burning bridges with dynamite

Kansas City has been shaken by loud bouts of explosions over the last few weeks due to the demolition of the Fairfax Bridge. The bridge connected US highway 69 and interstate 635 over the Missouri River. Fairfax handled southbound traffic while its sister, the Platte Purchase Bridge, handled northbound traffic. The demolition took three phases to complete. The first phase demolished the center span of the bridge on Jan. 16, the second knocked out the trusses on Jan. 26, and the third removed the northern end of the bridge on Jan. 29.

The Fairfax Bridge was built by the Kansas City Bridge Company, which first broke ground in 1931 and officially opened in 1934.  According to the Missouri Department of Transportation, the bridge was built to accommodate the traffic and vehicles of the time it was built, but it could not hold up to the heavy traffic and vehicles of today. The bridge needed many costly and extensive repairs to maintain, which in-turn caused many delays. Thus, in 2013 it was decided that it would be best to demolish the bridge and build another, more modern bridge.

The new bridge will feature four lanes, where Fairfax only had two. It will also feature a bicycle/ pedestrian walkway on one side of the bridge. It is estimated that this new bridge will cost about $79 million. The cost will be split between the Missouri and Kansas Departments of Transportation. MoDOT and KDOT implemented a new process that greatly lowered the cost of building the new bridge, called design-build. A designer’s plan is picked for the project and their group is contracted to build it. Before, it was design-bid-build, where the department would come up with a plan and ask builders to bid on the project which would then be contracted. This new process lets builders make their own low-cost and low-impact designs for the site and present them for a shot at getting chosen. One of the main goals for MoDOT and KDOT is to build a low-maintenance bridge that will last more than a century.

The new bridge is to begin construction as soon as the old bridge is removed from the site. It is scheduled to open in December 2016.

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