Blast takes out partially collapsed bridge span

Friday, September 24, 2004

A demolition contractor blasted apart a partially collapsed small span of Cape Girardeau's old Mississippi River bridge Thursday morning. The explosions dropped the wrecked steel structure into the water on the Illinois side and destroyed part of a concrete pier.

Unlike the blast two weeks ago, which took out more of the bridge than expected, Thursday's blast shortly after 7 a.m. went according to plan.

"They done all right on that one," said spectator Lee Ank of Cape Girardeau after he watched the span fall into a shallow part of the river.

But it wasn't nearly as dramatic as the Sept. 9 blast which brought down a main span of the 76-year-old bridge and triggered a chain reaction, possibly caused by vibration, which partially collapsed two other steel spans and knocked down part of a pier.

Perhaps 200 people -- far fewer than the previous three blasts -- gathered at Riverfront Park to watch the destruction.

Missouri Department of Transportation officials, who watched the blast from the Missouri shore, breathed a sigh of relief that this blast went as planned.

"Boring is good," said Scott Meyer, MoDOT district engineer. "Everything went fine."

The general contractor, Midwest Foundation Corp. of Tremont, Ill., plans to remove the debris with barge cranes. That work should be completed within 48 hours after the blast, said Tim Troyer, Midwest Foundation project manager.

Both Troyer and Meyer said there's less urgency about hauling off this debris because it's not blocking the navigation channel.

The salvage work is expected to be a little easier this time since this span is shorter, in fewer pieces and is resting in shallower water, officials said.

The demolition contractor, Dem Tech of Dubois, Wyo., set off 53 charges involving 7 1/2 pounds of military-grade explosives to cut the steel and 330 pounds of explosives similar to dynamite to destroy part of a concrete pier.

In contrast, the Sept. 9 blast involved 327 charges and 62 pounds of military-grade explosives to blow up the main span over the navigation channel. Those explosions cut the main span into 20 pieces, said Dem Tech president Scott Gustafson.

Thursday's blast cut a smaller span into four pieces, dropping it into about 10 feet of water. The river is so shallow at that spot that much of the span could be seen above the water line once the smoke cleared.

The blast also razed a concrete pier to just above the water level. "We shot 70 feet off of it," he said.

Unlike the last blast, no downtown homes were evacuated.

Gustafson and MoDOT officials said the next blast could come by the middle of next week. That blast would take down the one remaining, partially collapsed span that dangles from two piers in the middle of the river.

Gustafson said his crew then will have to drill holes in the still-standing concrete piers to hold explosives. Those piers will be exploded all the way to their foundations. Those blasts could occur within about a month, he said.

The entire demolition project is costing $2.23 million.

All of the demolition work should be completed by mid-November, he said.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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