Towanda Township, in Butler County, Kansas, was a major proponent of stone arch culverts. Not surprisingly, then, a stone arch culvert built by this township has turned up.
The Fulton Road Stone Arch Culvert
On Fulton Road, just south of where Fulton crosses the Kansas Turnpike, we found a simple single-span stone arch culvert. This stone arch culvert is a well-built one. The masonry is good, the joints fairly tight, and it is immediately obvious the mason understood his trade.
The workmanship of the Fulton Road culvert is rather comparable to the 5th Street Towanda culvert posted here last week. The 5th Street Towanda culvert was built by J. E. Dwyer, so perhaps this one was also built by him. J. E. Dwyer, old newspapers make clear, was certainly building stone arch culverts for Towanda Township, though no newspaper references specifically relating to the Fulton Road culvert have turned up at this time. This culvert has been added to our list of Butler County stone arch bridges, map number 32.
The original piece of the culvert is relatively small but of good quality and has been excellently repointed in more recent years. On this original stone piece, concrete curbings have been added in a series of installments, each new addition being stacked on top of the curbing below. The result is that the culvert is now very high; this obviously was intentional, and is possibly related to achieving a reasonable road grade that will work with the Turnpike crossing a short distance north of the stone bridge. The culvert also now has concrete wing walls and, at a casual glance from the road, can pass for a concrete bridge.
Scour: A Major Threat to the Fulton Road Culvert
The Fulton Road culvert looks sturdy and likely to last for ages at a casual glance. However, a close look at the culvert reveals severe scouring of the southern abutment, especially on the upstream side. It appears that the foundations of this stone bridge were built quite shallow and that the water enters this culvert at an angle, which combination no doubt is the reason for the scour problem. The undermining of the southern abutment has already caused settlement resulting in cracking in the arch, and it is clear that if the scour is left unchecked, collapse must inevitably follow sooner or later. That said, the culvert appears to still be in good enough condition that the simple addition of concrete scour aprons would be sufficient to ensure the stability of the structure for years to come.
If scour protection is implemented before the undermining considerably worsens, the Fulton Road stone culvert will not only be saved, but the major headache of a future large-scale repair or replacement of this high culvert prevented.