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If you can move them, these Missouri River bridges could be yours — for free

They are a pair of aging beauties. And wow, you should check out their impressive measurements.

Interested? If so, they can be yours at no cost.

All you have to do is come up with a good use for them and the ability to relocate two half-mile-long steel spans that now cross the Missouri River.

They are the Platte Purchase and Fairfax bridges that carry U.S. 69 traffic over the Missouri River between Wyandotte and Platte counties.

Built separately in the 1930s and 1950s, the steel spans are scheduled to be replaced in 2015.

Because the bridges are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, federal law requires the state to offer them for reuse and relocation as an alternative to having them demolished.

“They’re historically significant,” said Toni Prawl, senior historic preservation specialist for the Missouri Department of Transportation. “It’s primarily because of their length and because of their truss design. They’re what we would consider monumental, because they span such a great distance, and they cross a major river.”

Under the program, funds equal to as much as 80 percent of what it would cost to demolish the bridges may be available for relocating them. But whoever takes them must assume all legal and financial responsibility for the structures.

State officials know that is asking a lot. Though they have found takers for smaller bridges, they never have been able to find a taker for such large structures, Prawl said. And that’s just not a problem in Missouri.

“By and large, these marketing plans are not successful,” said Kitty Henderson, executive director of a national organization, the Historic Bridge Foundation. “There is a lack of funding available to pay for rehabilitation, and many people are concerned the huge liability of taking ownership.”

If officials are unable to find someone with the will and the means to take the entire 2,600-foot-long structures, bids will be considered for people interested in using only some of the bridges’ components, Prawl said.

“We would prefer that the bridges are kept in their current state,” Prawl said. “But we understand that because of their size that could be difficult.”

If someone does find a use for portions of the bridges, it’s hoped that they would be able to keep their “historic character” intact, she said.

“We will entertain all kinds of proposals,” Prawl said.

A survey of the about 23,000 bridges in Missouri identified several hundred that are on or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Several of them have been moved or reused as part of the preservation program.

A bridge that once crossed Otter Creek south of Hamilton, Mo., in Caldwell County now spans a pond in a community park in the town of Polo. An Iowa National Guard helicopter was used to lift the 15,000-pound bridge and move it 12 miles to its new home.

Another Caldwell County structure, the 187-foot Bonanza Bridge, was moved 300 feet by cranes and bulldozers, and now sits preserved in a field adjacent to the new bridge that replaced it.

Another bridge success story is pending in Kansas City. The department is working with someone to relocate the U.S. 40 bridge over the Blue River. Those plans could be completed in the “near future,” Prawl said.

And although the task of moving huge spans like the Platte Purchase and Fairfax bridges is daunting, nothing is impossible.

After all, part of the 1930s London Bridge was moved to Arizona and used in the building of a replica structure in Havasu City.

To help spread the word, the department has set up a Free Bridges website with information about the bridges and the process of acquiring them.

“We’re trying to do it in a new way,” Prawl said.

The information can be viewed at

http://www.modot.org/freebridges
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