Update: Since this article was published in the Aug. 28 edition of the Louisiana Press-Journal, the possible date of closure of the old Champ Clark Bridge to traffic has been delayed twice. The most recent information from MoDOT suggests the closure will happen on Tuesday, Sept. 3, "if the weather cooperates."
LOUISIANA – Its all over but the blasting — or just about.
Maybe that’s why this weekend’s update on construction projects around the two Champ Clark Bridges was so well attended, even though the new bridge has been open for three weeks.
The first order of business is to get traffic off the old bridge, which is still carrying cars to the marina on the Illinois side of the river, while work crews connect the marina to the new road system.
That date has already been delayed by the last week of rainy weather. As of Saturday, Massman Construction’s Josh Hanrahan said that barring more bad weather, the last car might make its way across Thursday. [UPDATE: On Wednesday afternoon, Hanrahan told the Press-Journal that the wet ground had again delayed the closing, which would take place Friday evening, again barring more inclement weather.]
Once the old bridge’s about 90 years of service is conclusively brought to an end, work can begin dismantling and demolishing the old bridge.
That means, among other things, getting Massman’s cranes upstream so they can work on the old bridge. That’s a particular challenge in the case of their largest crane, which they expected to move this week.
Before the bridge is taken apart, the asphalt on the bridge will be milled off and the concrete removed, so that only steel remains.
The Missouri terminus of the bridge will then be dismantled without explosives, a measure designed to protect the railroad running beneath it.
The demolition of the remaining parts of the bridge will take place over several days, with four or five separate blasts, proceeding span-by-span from the Missouri to the Illinois side of the river.
The pieces of steel dropped in the river will be picked out of the river and then cut into pieces for scrap on the Illinois side of the river.
Members of the public will be informed ahead of time about the demolition, and told where they can watch the blasts safely.
“Its going to be well-attended,” Hanrahan said. “We’ve actually made [the] comment at the office, that there will probably be more [people] for the demolition than the bridge dedication.”
Hanrahan said he couldn’t speak to whether it would be possible to raffle off opportunities to push the button that brings the bridge down.
Elected officials in Louisiana have expressed concerns about safety features on the new bridge, especially measures to encourage drives to respect the stop signs at the intesection of 54 and 79. In the short term, MoDOT Champ Clark Deputy Project Director Brandi Baldwin said, drivers would be given time to adjust to the new alignment before additional steps are taken.
“If it continues to be a problem, MoDOT will monitor it and adjust with time. But we need to give it that time,” Baldwin said.
As the project nears its end, Massman’s presence in Louisiana will shrink to a “pretty minimal footprint” by the end of the year, Hanrahan said.