By Jim Misunas
FORT LARNED — The Fort Larned National Historic Site has received a $1 million grant to construct a new bridge and improve parking from the Federal Highway Administration in the Public Lands Highway Discretionary Program.
The Fort Larned project will construct a new bridge to improve public safety, a new parking area to accommodate the new bridge location, and a new main entrance road to the park.
The 300-foot bridge across the Pawnee River serves as the main entrance to Fort Larned National Historic Site. The 48-year-old bridge was constructed to highway specifications and has been regularly crossed by delivery trucks and motor coaches. Traffic is limited to vehicles weighing less than 10 tons. Annual inspections by Federal Highway personnel from Denver, Colo. indicated the structure should be demolished.
A new pedestrian bridge will be constructed near the historic military crossing of the Pawnee River, designed to be compatible with the historic setting of Fort Larned. The new bridge will be constructed a few hundred feet from the current bridge. The new bridge will be fashioned after an original 1911 wagon crossing.
Fort Larned Superintendent Kevin McMurry said the new bridge would improve safety by eliminating vehicle and pedestrian conflicts. The new bridge also would help to restore the 1870s atmosphere of the fort, providing visitors an improved historic experience.
“When the new bridge is completed, it will improve the visitor experience,” McMurry said. “By bringing in visitors from a different direction, they will be routed the way army traffic historically entered Fort Larned.”
McMurry said bridge rebar is rusting and some concrete on the underside has fallen off. He said the Fort Larned bridge has sustained wear by being over a river that is maintained in its native environment.
Federal Highway personnel will do the design work, which will take six to eight months to complete.
The FHWA awarded $5.45 million in 2012 discretionary funding grants for five Kansas projects.
A Wyandotte County $3.34 million reconstruction of the I-70 and K-7 interchange will go toward preliminary engineering, right-of-way acquisition, utility relocation and construction of the west half of the interchange. The project will reduce traffic congestion, improve access and support future economic development.
The Hiawatha Fitness and School Trail will construct a $782,967 trail. The Kansas Byways Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan will be a $260,000 investment. Western Vistas Historic Byway Wayside and Interpretive Signs grant will be a $70,400 investment.