The part of Big Bend Road Road that runs alongside Linda Shirrell's home was only supposed to be closed for about 30 days. That would give the contractor enough time to widen the two-block stretch near Sloan Creek Bridge before moving on to the next section.
That was last October, and the bulky orange barricades are still in place.
"We've been living with these detours for nine months," said Shirrell, whose house sits near the corner of Second Street and Big Bend Road. "We can't go south at all. It's like a maze trying to find our way out of here. We want our road back."
They're going to have to wait awhile longer. A portion of the overall $1.9 million project to widen Big Bend Road from Second Street to Cape Rock Drive is being delayed by the high waters of nearby Sloan Creek, which feeds off a still-swollen Mississippi River.
City officials and project managers say until the Mississippi River goes down, allowing the creek to recede, the barricades are staying put and the road closed. With the unpredictability of Mother Nature, no one can know for sure how long the river will stay above flood stage or when the work on that 100-foot section can resume.
"We're very concerned about this because it creates a huge impact to all the residents there," city engineer Kelly Green said. "Certainly, we thought we'd be finished by now. This section shouldn't have taken very long at all. Unfortunately, our hands are tied."
The river, as it has done all year for many, put a dent in their plans. After workers for Nip Kelly Equipment, the contractor doing the job, began working, the water continuously crept up under the new pavement, ate away soil under the road in the 100-foot section, caused an embankment to fail and left narrow gaps under the roadway, Green said.
"This bank just slid down," she said. "We don't want to pave this until we get the bank stabilized, and we can't get it stabilized until the creek goes down."
The stabilization project will push up costs by about $50,000, Green said. Once the water goes down, crews can reinforce the embankment with a combination of dirt, rock and riprap.
"It's a waiting game," Green said. "But getting the stabilization work done will not take long once the creek goes down."
But no one knows when that will happen for sure, said Nathan Rees, project manager for Nip Kelly Equipment.
"It basically depends on when the water drops," Rees said. "We've got to get some big machines in that ditch to do the stabilization work. It's going to have to drop several feet before we can do that. It will have to go down and stay down for at least two weeks before we can start."
On Friday afternoon, the river stood at 37.65 feet, considered a moderate flood stage. It is forecast to drop to 36.1 feet by Wednesday, still well above the 32-foot flood stage mark.
It's been a hassle for residents and city officials both, but Green said the creek flooding hasn't stopped work on the Big Bend Road project overall. In fact, it's just been in that small section near the bridge. She said the widening project has been basically completed from Second to Fifth streets. In addition to widening, a sidewalk is being added to the east side and a storm-water system is being installed.
"I don't want people to think the whole project is being stalled by the creek -- it's not," Green said. "We're still hoping to have the whole thing completed by the fall. That's the plan anyway."
On Monday, the project -- paid for by voter-approved Transportation Trust Fund dollars -- will move forward with the construction starting on the next two-block, 1,000-foot section from Fifth to Roberts street. Big Bend will now also be closed between those streets for about 45 days. Detour signs will be in place routing traffic to Main Street.
"We're going to start picking up speed," Green said.
Big Bend Road, Cape Girardeau, MO