11 Most Endangered Historic Places
Amelia Earhart Memorial Bridge
Year Listed: 2003
Threat: Poor Public Policy, Road Construction
When it opened in 1938, this bridge across the Missouri River was hailed as an engineering marvel and a great boon to Atchison’s economy. Now the two-lane span -- given its present name in 1997 to honor the local girl who became a world-famous aviator -- has been labeled obsolete and is slated for replacement. Preservationists claim that rehabbing the historic bridge makes more sense than demolishing it. Federal law helps to protect these engineering landmarks from demolition. Section 4(f) of the 1966 Department of Transportation Act states that historic sites cannot be demolished unless there is no "feasible and prudent alternative." Rehabilitation and continued use of the Earhart Bridge is a "feasible and prudent alternative" to demolition -- but Congress is considering changes to Section 4(f) that could cripple the strongest federal preservation law currently on the books. This key piece of legislation has helped save dozens of treasured landmarks since it was enacted. If it is weakened, historic places all over the country --including the Amelia Earhart Memorial Bridge and the other seven historic bridges along the Missouri River that are slated for replacement -- could be imperiled by transportation projects, and thousands of Americans could lose important links with their past. Additional funding for endangered historic bridges is also needed. Congress is currently considering increasing the Historic Bridge Fund and allowing Transportation Enhancement Funds to be used in conjunction with the Bridge Fund for rehabilitation projects. Both changes will have favorable impacts on preserving historic bridges.