Connection of cables marks progress on Emerson bridge

Friday, June 14, 2002

The workers laboring at the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge aren't just construction workers, engineers and inspectors.

They're cable guys, too.

A construction checkpoint was reached Monday when the bridge's first strands were pulled on Pier 2, the tallest pier near the Missouri banks of the Mississippi River.

High-density polyethylene pipes -- which range from 6 5/16 inches in outside diameter to 8 7/8 inches -- are all that are visible from the outside. They case and protect many 3/4-inch steel strands.

Only four cables have been connected to anchors at this point, said Allen Friedrich, senior construction inspector for the Missouri Department of Transportation, but some finishing work still needs to be done on the anchorage.

The recent work represents the beginning of another stage in the project.

"We're all happy to be at this point," Friedrich said. "It's kind of a milestone."

Each of the four existing cables contain 19 strands, but future high-density polyethylene pipes will contain as many as 51.

All told, the bridge will have 4,604 cable strands, which could be lined up for 171 miles. The cables will hold up the bridge deck. As a safety precaution, the cables will hold less than half their maximum weight.

It took several weeks to get the four cables connected with two on each tower leg -- one on each side. The recent Mississippi River flooding delayed the process, but Friedrich said the overall bridge project is still on schedule to meet its completion target date of fall of 2003.

The next series of stays will be completed in about a month.

The cables will ultimately be the signature of the bridge. The cable-stay construction will give the bridge a different appearance than suspension types like the Golden Gate Bridge. All 128 cables will connect with the deck and a pier, whereas suspension bridge cables connect vertically from the deck to another suspended cable.

Meanwhile, Pier 3, located in the middle of the river, has reached "bowtie" level, referring to the large, concrete horizontal piece that resembles a bowtie that links the two towers on a pier. Construction on the "bowtie" will begin soon.

Work on Pier 4, located east of Pier 3, also continues. Workers are sinking the caisson by dredging.

bmiller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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