By Heidi Hall ~ Southeast Missourian
From here on, the new Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge is all about temperature.
It's got to be warm enough to grout the cables. The 3-inch silica fume driving surface needs ideal weather conditions to be applied.
So Scott Meyer, district engineer with the Missouri Department of Transportation, hedged a little when he announced the magic date people crowded around him to hear.
Traffic will cross the new bridge Dec. 13. He hopes.
The announcement came Tuesday at the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau on Broadway. The curious -- mostly chamber of commerce members invited to the event -- packed the main room for the announcement.
Chamber president John Mehner introduced Meyer with a joke. "Except for his lovely wife, Susan, nobody has wanted a date from Scott more than we do today," he said.
David Phelps, assistant secretary for the Illinois Department of Transportation, said the approach from the Illinois side is 80 percent complete and will be ready for the opening date.
Drivers crossing the 75-year-old Mississippi River bridge have faced a number of travel-discouraging woes over the past few years, including workers making repairs to keep the old bridge safe until the new one could be completed.
U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson lauded the cooperation between Missouri and Illinois that will bring those traffic-jammed days to an end.
"I am really excited and looking forward to knocking down the old bridge," she said.
The new bridge is named for the Emerson's late husband, who formerly held her congressional seat. Sen. Kit Bond proposed legislation naming the bridge and saw it passed on the same day in 1996.
Events surrounding the bridge opening include:
Oct. 16: Draw the bridge contest sponsored by the Southeast Missourian Jr. Contact Tracey Glenn at 335-8556.
Oct. 18: Miss Diamond Cape pageant. Contact Erin Hamm at 651-0964.
Oct. 31: "What a Bridge Means to Me" essay contest. Contact John Mehner at 335-3312.
Oct. 31: Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge song-writing event. Contact Teresa Morrill at 334-7800.
Oct. 31: Photography competition and exhibition, "Highways, Waterways and Railways: Transportation along the Mississippi." Contact Pat Patterson at 335-5197.
Nov. 8: Bridge building competition. Contact Angie Wilson at (573) 472-6632.
Nov. 8 and 9, 15 and 16, 22 and 23: Museum exhibition, H&H Building, "Bridge to Our Past and Future." Contact Kristi Nitsch at 335-0101.
Nov. 21: Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge VIP, chosen by drawing. Contact John Mehner at 335-3312.
Dec. 13 (tentative): Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge dedication ceremony. Events will include a ceremony to honor those present at the dedication of the old bridge and a run, walk and bike on the River Campus grounds. Contact John Mehner at 335-3312 or Angie Wilson at (573) 472-6632 for the ceremony and Matt Specht at 651-5142 about the run, walk and bike.