U.S. 40 and 59 Bridges

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U.S. 40 and U.S. 59 Bridges
Carries US-40 / US-59/Vermont Street/Massachusetts Street
Crosses Kansas River
Locale Lawrence, Kansas
Maintained by KDOT
Design Five-Span Howe Truss (first span)
Concrete Deck-Arch (second span)
2 multi-beam girder bridges (current spans)
Opened 1864 (first span)
1917 (second span)
1978 (current southbound span)
1980 (current northbound span)
Coordinates 38°58′34″N 95°14′09″W / 38.9762°N 95.2357°W / 38.9762; -95.2357Coordinates: 38°58′34″N 95°14′09″W / 38.9762°N 95.2357°W / 38.9762; -95.2357

The U.S. 40 and 59 Bridges are twin multi-beam girder bridges over the Kansas River at Lawrence, Kansas. The west bridge carries two lanes of southbound traffic, connecting to Vermont Street, while the east bridge carries two lanes of northbound from Massachusetts Street. Both bridges converge on the north end to become North 2nd Street.[1] The east bridge is also the third bridge to be built at this location.

First bridge[edit]

The first bridge was a 690-foot five-span Howe truss bridge built in 1864 by the Lawrence Bridge Company at a cost of $47,000. It was the first bridge across the Kansas River west of Kansas City. It was operated as a toll bridge until 1879, when the Kansas Supreme Court revoked the company's charter and seized the bridge on behalf of the state.[2]

The first bridge was washed out by floods in 1876 and 1903 and rebuilt. By 1913, the bridge was determined to be unsafe, and was subsequently replaced with the second span.[2]

Second bridge[edit]

The second span, a 1,026 foot concrete arch bridge, was built by Douglas County and opened in January 1917.[2][3] The bridge deck originally had a brick surface with a set of streetcar tracks down the middle. The deck was later paved over with concrete and asphalt.[4]

By 1972, the bridge had begun to deteriorate due to years of road salt, and required patching of the south span across the Santa Fe railroad tracks. In addition, a water main had been placed on the west side of the bridge at rail height. The Bridge was carrying 17,000 vehicles per day.[3]

By 1973, Lawrence and Douglas County had agreed to hold a bond election for replacement of the Kansas River span. Initially proposed as a single 4 lane bridge at a cost of $3 million,[5] plans were changed to a pair of two lane bridges,[6] with the estimated costs increased to $5 million.[7] Voters approved the bond issue to replace the Kansas River bridge in November 1974.[8]

By January 1975, the spandrel beams on the deck had deteriorated to the point where an engineering consultant suggested that they may fail and cause a section of the bridge deck to drop.[8] The consultant recommended that an 8 ton weight limit be imposed on the bridge, which was approved by the Lawrence City Commission over the opposition of truckers.[9]

Current bridges[edit]

Work began on the new Vermont Street span began in April 1976. The winning contractor had bid $4.5 million, a figure that was considered "surprisingly low."[1] Due to delays, the Vermont Street span was not completed and opened to traffic until April 4, 1978, at which time the old Massachusetts Street span was closed, and two-way traffic was temporally carried on the new bridge.[10]

The old span was demolished manually, with some of the bridge material used as temporary fill as part of construction of the new bridge.[4] Additional delays occurred on the second span. The Massachusetts street span was completed by January 1980, about 1½ years behind schedule. The bridge was not opened until March to allow the deck additional time to cure and not be exposed to winter salt treatments that could deteriorate the deck.[1][11]


  1. ^ a b c Shoup, Shirley (1980-03-11). "Long-delayed span opens Thursday". Lawrence Journal-World. 
  2. ^ a b c Rowe, Elfriede (1968-04-11). "Crossing the Kaw in Bygone page". Lawrence Journal-World. 
  3. ^ a b McIntosh, Toby (1972-04-07). "Faithful Bridge Gets Little Attention". Lawrence Journal-World. 
  4. ^ a b "Old bricks and rails unearthed". Lawrence Journal-World. 1978-04-06. 
  5. ^ "2 Bridges Over Kaw River Instead of Expected One?". Lawrence Journal-World. 1973-11-02. 
  6. ^ "Divided bridge proposal gets backing". Lawrence Journal-World. 1974-07-04. 
  7. ^ "$3 Million Cost Estimate For Bridge May Be Low". Lawrence Journal-World. 1973-11-16. 
  8. ^ a b "Consultant explains Kaw bridge problems". Lawrence Journal-World. 1975-01-27. 
  9. ^ Pryor, Tim (1975-02-26). "City Moves to set bridge load limit". Lawrence Journal-World. 
  10. ^ Chartrand, David (1978-04-04). "New bridge opens with a rush". Lawrence Journal-World. 
  11. ^ Shoup, Shirley (1980-01-22). "Salt’s the rub in setting date for opening bridge". Lawrence Journal-World.