Diversion Channel repairs

Monday, May 17, 2004

Motorists who travel Interstate 55 south of Cape Girardeau are getting tired of maneuvering the concrete barriers and could do without the bumpy drive on the shoulder-turned-lane that has become part of their daily commute across the Diversion Channel.

But those drivers soon will be able to travel on a smooth patch of four-lane highway if all goes as planned. The new bridge should be open to traffic by month's end.

Work on the bridge south of Cape Girardeau continues to hang on like summer humidity over Southeast Missouri. While the project hasn't been without delays, not all of them have been under the control of the contractors.

Flooding forced a four-month delay on the bridge work, and other below-ground hangups put a stop to work temporarily.

Engineers with the Missouri Department of Transportation say all lanes of the bridge should be open by the end of May. The entire project, including completed on and off ramps, may not be finished for some time after that, however.

Unusual circumstances and weather delays are to be expected when building a bridge, though. Contractors usually allow for some delays when they estimate the project's length, and MoDOT has offered several extensions without penalizing Penzel Construction Co.

Both Penzel and MoDOT should be commended for their diligence and determination to get this project done as quickly as possible without risking safety in the process. When motorists complained about the single southbound lane, MoDOT responded by opening the shoulder to accommodate the increased amount of traffic.

While almost everyone driving I-55 south has complained about the Diversion Channel project, we should all be happy that the work is nearing completion. Extending lanes and widening a bridge aren't simple tasks. We should be pleased that MoDOT is tackling such a technical project as the Diversion Channel bridge expansion.

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