James Baughn was the webmaster of seMissourian.com and its sister newspapers for 20 years. On the side, he maintained even more sites, including Bridgehunter.com, LandmarkHunter.com, TheCapeRock.com, and Humorix. Baughn passed away in 2020 while doing one of the things he loved most: hiking in Southeast Missouri. Here is an archive of his writing about hiking and nature in our area.
The Emerson Bridge: Five years later
Posted Thursday, December 11, 2008, at 12:15 PM
This Saturday will mark the fifth anniversary of the opening of the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge. It doesn't seem like five years, but the ribbon was cut on Dec. 13, 2003.
Needless to say, crossing the new bridge is a completely different experience than crossing the old traffic bridge. Rumors circulated that the old rusting hulk was held together with duct tape and bailing wire. That's not quite true: it was actually held together with chains. And it was missing some parts:
This amusing graffiti from underneath the old bridge called it the "Bridge O' Death."
Despite the structural problems, the clipped mirrors, and the frequent traffic jams, the old bridge had a certain charm that was lost when the Emerson Bridge opened. As I've written in the past, the 1927 bridge was ahead of its time for engineering techniques.
On the day that the Emerson Bridge opened, I couldn't resist the temptation to walk across the old bridge to get some parting shots. Construction workers looked at me funny but didn't seem to mind.
As someone interested in historic preservation, the demolition process was hard to watch, but it did produce one of the most memorable sights in Cape Girardeau history:
The Emerson Bridge was lined with cars as people leaned over to see the aftermath of the demolition that took out more than the engineers had bargained for.
After the new bridge opened, it was possible to drive down to the Illinois shore using an access road from the levee. Since then, fences and a locked gate have been erected to keep people away (with limited success).
It's a shame, really, because the Illinois shore next to the Emerson Bridge could make for a wonderful park, with a full view of the bridge and the Cape Girardeau riverfront.
Illinois and East Cape are really missing the boat on this one.
- The Pavement Ends guide to the Ozark Riverways (8/19/20)
- Maintz sunflowers back for 2020 (7/27/20)
- Massive sinkhole opens in Reynolds County along the Trail of Tears (6/3/20)1
- Hike from 0 to 12 miles on the Audubon Trail (5/14/20)
- Scenes from Pinecrest Azalea Garden (4/19/20)
- Ideas for getting away from it all (3/27/20)1
- Jean Dale: Cape Girardeau baseball sensation (with an asterisk) (2/10/20)
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