Champ Clark Bridge missing spans

The Champ Clark Bridge is missing two spans after last Friday's demolition. The remaining three spans will now be taken down.

LOUISIANA – Delays in the process of taking down the old Champ Clark Bridge mean the two spans on the Illinois side of the river will not meet their maker till mid-November.

That’s according to representatives of Massman Construction and the Missouri Department of Transportation, addressing interested locals at what looks likely to be the last public monthly update on the progress of the Champ Clark bridge.

Delays have jumbled the order in which they’ll tackle the remaining three spans of the bridge. In order to keep their established window for working above the railroad line, they now plan to dismantle the span closest to Louisiana first. To protect the railroad running beneath, that span will be cut into pieces and dismantled, rather than being blasted. As of Saturday, Massman planned to be moving into position to begin work on the first span toward the end of this week.

A steel falsework tower has been built beneath the bridge. When work begins, hydraulic jacks will be used to transfer the weight onto the tower.  Crews will then start on the west end of the span, cutting off pieces one by one toward the tower. The last chunk above the tower will be removed as a single large piece.

The fireworks Friday-before last, which took out the second and third spans from the Missouri side of the bridge went well, they said — barring some delays as the demolitionists fought winds as they made their preparations.

“I didn’t want to rush him, everything had to be perfect to get that thing to fall right. So we just gave him the time he needed to get it right. All in all, the blast went well,” Project Director TJ Colombatto said. The new bridge did not sustain damage, and the pieces of debris that landed on the roadway were easy to dispose of before opening the new bridge.

The process of getting the old bridge out of the navigation channel also posed a problem. Two pieces ultimately drifted further with the current then expected, posing a special challenge. Pieces fell on each other in such a way that they became tangled, further complicating efforts to pick them out of the water. The  crew even had to bring in a diver to go into the river and reattach some broken rigging. The channel wasn’t clear till Monday afternoon, beyond the window given by the Coast Guard.

“Bottom-line is, we had to adjust our plan, and any adjustments on the water take time,” Colombatto said. “The last thing we want to do is get in a hurry and get somebody hurt.”

The demolition of the last two spans will likely go forward in mid-November, with some adjustments based on their experience with the last demolitions.

Send questions and comments to athorp@pikecountynews.com.

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