Blasting of old bridge begins Tuesday

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Demolition crews plan to blast sections of the old Mississippi River bridge at Cape Girardeau on Tuesday, imploding piers on four sections of the bridge on the Illinois side.

The implosion is scheduled for about noon, weather permitting. Officials with the Missouri Department of Transportation, the U.S. Coast Guard and the general contractor, Midwest Foundation Corp. of Tremont, Ill., finalized plans for the blast late Tuesday.

"The contractor will place explosives in the piers," said MoDOT area engineer Stan Johnson. "Those bridge spans will fall to the ground pretty much intact."

The trusses are expected to fall on the Illinois shore. The contractor will bring in heavy equipment to cut up the metal beams, which then will be hauled away, said MoDOT resident engineer Bob Wilson.

"There will not be any debris in the river," he said.

Tuesday's blast is the first of eight that will occur over the next five months to remove the 76-year-old span. Four blasts, scheduled to be completed by mid-September, will drop the various bridge trusses, including the main span over the river. Four more will follow underwater to remove the pier footings before year's end.

"The blast will be noisy," Johnson said. "The contractor has told us it will sound like a big Fourth of July celebration."

The bridge was closed last December with the opening of the new Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge.

Road, water and air traffic will be restricted during the blast.

The Emerson Bridge will be closed to traffic for about five minutes before and five minutes after the blast. All other vehicular traffic will be restricted within a 1,000-foot radius of the demolition site.

Boats and barges will be kept 1,500 feet back.

"The contractor probably will look for a time when there is no barge traffic," Wilson said.

Air traffic also will be ordered to steer clear of the site during the blast.

The public can watch the blast from Cape Girardeau's riverfront, the downtown parking lot across from Hutson's Fine Furniture and the city's Murtaugh Park at William and Main streets, MoDOT officials said.

There are no recommended viewing spots in Illinois.

"There are so many trees in Illinois, I don't think anybody would have a good vantage point on that side," Wilson said.

335-6611, extension 123

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