Dangling cable shuts down St. Louis bridge

Friday, December 26, 2003

ST. LOUIS -- Maybe it was the heightened fears of terrorism, but a cable dangling from a St. Louis bridge created a brief Christmas night scare.

U.S. Coast Guard authorities patrolling the river Thursday afternoon discovered the cable, which dangled from the Poplar Street Bridge to near the waters of the Mississippi River.

The wire was particularly concerning in light of the rise in the terrorism alert last weekend to orange, or high, and the fact that traffic on the Mississippi River and bridges often are cited as potential terrorism targets. So is the Gateway Arch, which sits within a half-mile of the bridge.

But after closing both the bridge -- which carries interstates 44, 64 and 70 into Illinois -- and a two-mile stretch of river for a few hours, authorities determined the cable was simply part of the bridge itself, Coast Guard Petty Officer Gary Palmer said.

The bridge and river were reopened to traffic shortly before 8 p.m.

The cable was discovered sometime around 3 p.m., said Coast Guard Lt. Pat Clark.

"We had a small boat on the water doing a boat patrol," Clark said. "They noticed a wire or cable hanging from the Poplar Street Bridge. A cable hanging off a bridge is unusual."

The cable dangled from the bridge's guardrail on the Missouri side of the river and near a privately owned material sales facility. Authorities searched a nearby barge, including the use of explosive-sniffing dogs, but found nothing.

Police spokeswoman Schron Jackson said Christmas night traffic was light and the bridge shutdown did not cause major traffic problems.

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