Old bridge holds up well to heavy traffic

Saturday, October 5, 2002

Tales of rust chunks falling on bridge workers' heads and the sight of a bridge beam held up with a chain -- even though that beam isn't load-bearing -- certainly didn't increase motorists' confidence in the Mississippi River bridge at Cape Girardeau.

But before anyone decides that's the only reason people are avoiding the bridge, they should think again.

A series of traffic tie-ups due to inspections, repairs and construction of the new Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge have made some drivers avoid the hassle. It isn't unusual to find the bridge operating one lane at a time to accommodate such activities.

But, despite the stories, pictures and headaches, know this: The Missouri Department of Transportation says the bridge is safe.

That's not just true because MoDOT says so. The sturdiness of the old bridge was plainly demonstrated when 500 fully loaded cement trucks crossed the bridge a couple weeks ago without affecting traffic -- or the bridge -- one bit. The 74-year-old bridge held up just fine while aiding in the construction of its replacement.

Of course, everyone will feel better when the new bridge opens. In the meantime, there's no reason to change routines.

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