Motorists traveling across the Mississippi River Bridge at Chester will find slow going in the coming months.
The state of Missouri will begin repair work on the bridge pavement along with some minor steel work beginning July 5, with completion expected by December.
Stop lights will be in place and traffic will be limited to one 10 foot wide lane. Anyone moving farm equipment or other wide loads will need to detour north or south during this time.
According to Deputy Project Manager Benji Philpot, an announcement will be made in advance of a 72-hour period when the bridge will return to full width so that people can make plans to transport wide loads.
Philpot says the rehab work is necessary and will help improve the existing bridge as plans are finalized for the replacement of the 80-year-old structure. Those plans were discussed at a June 23 Missouri Department of Transportation community briefing in Perryville, Missouri.
The new bridge will be built using what is called "the Design-Build project delivery method," which allows MoDOT to hire a single contracting team to design and build the bridge.
According to the information given at the public meeting, the actual design and the exact location where it will go will be up to the selected contractor team.
The new bridge will most likely be to the north of the existing bridge, but how it will look will not be known until the contractor is selected. Missouri will request design proposals in August and September, and will award the contract by March of 2023 with construction expected to begin in the Spring of 2023. The goal is to open the new bridge by December 2026.
Project Director Brian Okenfuss said the most important goal for the new bridge is to provide safe and reliable transportation for the next 100 years.
Okenfuss said the new bridge will be built higher than the old span and will be above the levee on the Missouri side, which will allow the flood gates to be removed and the levee to be solid. This will help protect Perry County businesses and residences in the area against flooding. It will also help prevent closure of the bridge, as has happened during recent flooding.
Much of the preplanning is complete and environmental studies have been performed. The new bridge will have fewer piers than the old bridge, and Okenfuss said the piers on the Illinois side will rest on bedrock, which is close to the surface of the river. On the Missouri side, the bedrock is much deeper at 180 feet below the water, posing quite a challenge for the construction.
The current bridge will be in use until the new one is complete. With the repairs over the next few months, it should be a reliable means to and from Missouri until 2026.