Plans to replace railroad bridge on Range Line mean detours and closures are coming

JOPLIN, Mo. – An upcoming bridge project is going to cause some significant detours in Joplin.

This railroad bridge on Range Line at 29th street is aging and is costing the state a lot of money and resources for the nearly continuous maintenance it needs. However, that’s all about to change with a plan to replace it. MoDOT Transportation Project Manager Craig Switzer says “The original bridge was built in 1957, it’s in poor condition, it sees a lot of traffic, currently gets around 28,000 vehicles per day crossing that bridge, and it’s just worn out, it’s becoming a constant maintenance headache for it, it’s time to do something about it.”

Switzer says they typically build these bridges with a 20 year projection for their lifespan, which this one, is now well beyond. Beyond building a new bridge, there’s another problem they have to correct. “We’re going to have to raise the bridge up a couple of feet to get proper clearance over the railroad.”

Right now, Switzer says the bridge doesn’t meet the appropriate height for double stacked freight trains that run on the Kansas City Southern line underneath. These train cars, are about the same height as double stacked freight. You can see the clearance is pretty tight.

The work is expected to take up to four months and hopefully will begin about a year from now. But that four months, means some businesses, like Import Warehouse, could get another hit to customers, just as they recover from the pandemic. Import Warehouse President Steven St. Clair says he understands why the bridge needs to be replaced, he just wishes there was a better way to do it. “I went to the meetings, I would have liked to have seen them close one half of it and keep partial open, just for my out of town, about 80% of my traffic comes from the northern end, so it’s going to be definitely a slow period for us.”

St. Clair says he’ll be working to get the word out to customers about alternative ways to get to his business. Switzer there’s work to be done beyond just building the bridge. “In addition we’re also going to be adding sidewalks to the bridge, and those sidewalks will connect to the existing sidewalks we’ve got out there, and so all the way up to Braum’s and all the way south of 29th street, will be the sidewalk portion of the job. That won’t be done during the closure, that’ll be done at night.”

When the time comes, Switzer says there will be signed detours, with a planned route taking drivers east on 7th street to 249, then south to the 32nd street exit, then back west to Range Line. Switzer adds those detours are mainly for truck and out of town traffic and that locals will likely find their own route.