By Adam Thorp
LOUISIANA – Flood conditions around Louisiana kept workers from completing one of the last stages in the construction of the Champ Clark Bridge, but an official with the Missouri Department of Transportation said Monday it might still be completed by the ribbon-cutting event scheduled for Aug. 3.
A spurt of rain kept waters high longer than was forecast last week — it is projected to be around 17 feet through next week, several feet above flood stage and well above the level necessary to allow work where the Sny levee and the Illinois-side approach to the bridge intersect.
The new approach will go above the levee, avoiding flood-related closures. To make that possible, however, the levee needs to be taken down and put back up with sturdier materials — a process that would expose the area beyond the levee to flood waters.
At last week’s monthly construction update, representatives of MoDOT and Massman Construction, the lead contractor on the project, said that the coming weeks would be pivotal in determining whether the bridge would open by the date of the dedication.
“It’s going to be close,” MoDOT project manager Keith Killen said. “We’ll do everything we can.” The dedication was probably the earliest date the bridge could open according to Killen.
The work will have to wait until both the team building the bridge and the Sny Levee District are confident the water levels are low enough to go forward safely, Killen added.
“We can’t control it. You learn to live with it and work around it. You’re readers are more aware [of that] than I am],” Killen said.
The date of the ribbon-cutting will make it possible for Benjamin Clark, the great-grandson of Rep. Champ Clark, the bridge’s namesake, to attend.
The event will take place whether or not the bridge is ready to open to traffic. The committee planning the event will meet Wednesday to flesh out the details of the event. Killen said Monday he had nothing more to report about the event itself beyond the initial announcement.
Crews are continuing to work on other elements of the bridge. A polyester polymer wearing surface is being laid down on the bridge at night, when temperatures are more workable. Workers are also laying down base rock from the Illinois end of the bridge proper to the levee. Once the base rock is laid, paving of that stretch of roadway can begin. Workers will also need to add navigation lights to the bridge.
“We’re trying to do everything we can [while the flooding continues],” Killen said.