American Public Works Association
2013 Public Works Project of the Year
Award category:
Small Cities/Rural Communities
Historical Restoration/Preservation

Residents save Depression-era bridge
Project: North National Avenue Bridge
Managing agency: City of Fort Scott, Kan.
Primary consultant: Professional Engineering Consultants, P.A.
Primary contractor: Wildcat Concrete Services Inc.
Construction bid: $397,725
Actual Cost: $361,125

Why rehabilitate an 80-year-old bridge when drivers have another option -- especially if the community will have to foot the bill all on its own?

Because, while equally convenient, the other option means getting on the highway.

In 1842 the U.S. Army built an outpost at the “Permanent Indian Frontier” about 90 miles south of Kansas City on the Marmaton River. Today, Fort Scott is the Bourbon County seat and home to about 8,100 people.

For years they had just one way to cross the river. Built in 1933, the North National Avenue Bridge was a classic March arch bridge, a reinforced concrete design developed by James Marsh Barney that mimics a rainbow’s arch. Hundreds were built in 1910s, 1920s, and 1930s.

Over time, flooding ate away at the deck, arches, hangers and abutments; exposed structural steel; damaged deck expansion joints; and eroded surrounding river banks.

Also over time, a bypass was built around the city that crosses the river about half a mile from the existing bridge. But it required drivers to use one of the major highways of southeast Kansas.

Determined to preserve their original route and the bridge’s heritage, residents approved funding the restoration of the National Avenue Bridge.

On Nov. 30, 2011, the project was bid with Wildcat Concrete Services Inc. having the low bid of $397,725. To avoid unfavorable weather, the city met special permitting requirements. Construction began July 9, 2012, and finished nearly three weeks ahead of schedule on Sept. 18.

Almost 5,000 vehicles, 8% of them trucks, use the restored structure every day. It’s 202 feet long with a 30-foot-wide roadway and total width of 50 feet with sidewalks.

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