DOT IN CRISIS: Missouri can’t afford to fix dangerous bridge

The Champ Clark Bridge that connects Louisiana, Mo., to Illinois tops statewide list of rural bridges needing work

Bridges News August 13, 2015
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87 years is rather a long time. For the Champ Clark Bridge in Louisiana, Mo., those years have taken more than their toll. At present it is under restriction; oversized vehicles are prohibited from crossing it. Missouri transportation officials estimate it will take $60 million to replace the bridge, a cost that would be shared by the two states connected by the span: Missouri and Illinois.
 
Problem is: Missouri can’t foot their end.
 
The Champ Clark Bridge is one of approximately 600 statewide bridges considered to be in critical condition. The Missouri Department of Transportation’s (MoDOT) struggles have been previously explored by Roads & Bridges, and it seems that our previous report is seeing no detraction with regard to just how difficult it is persisting in being to maintain the state’s bridges.
 
2014’s inspection on the Champ Clark Bridge found “structural deficiencies” that led to the tighter rules on weight. 2015’s inspection took place this week, and whle MoDOT said the bridge is safe to cross, it cautioned that more dire restrictions, even closure, could arise if problems increase. A few bridges statewide already have been shut down indefinitely because MoDOT doesn’t have the money to make the fixes.
 
The inspection began Monday and is slated to finish today. MoDOT last week had to close one lane of the bridge to do an emergency temporary repair on one of the bridge’s expansion joints. A more permanent fix is expected this week. Results of the inspection won’t be available for several weeks.
 
The Champ Clark Bridge carries U.S. 54 northeast to Pittsfield, Ill., where the highway ends. The 20-ft-wide, half-mile long, shoulderless, two-lane bridge opened in 1928.
 
According to Keith Killen, MoDOT project manager, a new bridge would stand immediately to the south of the current structure and features 12-ft lanes and 10-ft shoulders.
 
Environmental assessments of the location of a new bridge are nearly complete. Pending Federal Highway Administration approval, MoDOT would begin working on the design of the new bridge only once if funding is available, which could take up to two years.
 
According to MoDOT officials, application for a $10 million federal grant, which would cut the cost for each state to $25 million, has been made. A decision is expected this fall.

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