Editorial

Bridge turns 15, becomes city's iconic image

Friday, December 21, 2018

Has it really been 15 years since the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge dedication?

The dedication of the span was quite a spectacle and much anticipated. The 15th anniversary of the bridge's opening was Dec. 13. Here is an excerpt from the Southeast Missourian's coverage that day, written by Bob Miller:

"From the ant's-eye view, standing on the road some 300 feet below the top of the pillar, the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge is more powerful than pretty, more prominent than poetic.

"From miles away, it may appear that each white cable was carefully painted on Cape Girardeau's skyline. From up close, the canvas turns into a working man's masterpiece, a staggering sculpture of concrete and steel, the end result of thousands of ideas, decisions, calculations and drops of sweat.

"Cape Girardeau's newest and most imposing structure was the star of the show Saturday as thousands of people spilled onto its deck, each person peering at the architecture while claiming his or her moment in history."

Today, the bridge remains one of a few iconic landmarks for Cape Girardeau. It towers over the city and can be seen from miles around in all directions.

The bridge has not yet led to the tourism and traffic inflow that was hoped 15 years ago, but it was badly needed. Trucks traded mirrors on the 75-year-old, narrow, rickety bridge. In fact, it could be argued the new bridge was late in its arrival. The bridge was named for Bill Emerson, the late congressman who helped secure funding for the bridge.

Today, fewer people are driving from Illinois than they did 15 years ago, but local officials still hold out hope that the bridge will be a conduit for an interstate connection to I-24.

The bridge was the reason we have an expanded Highway 74 out to Interstate 55, paving the way for better traffic flow and businesses.

Some major repairs are slated for 2019 to mend the metal joint connecting Highway 74 to the bridge on the Missouri side.

But the bridge is definitely an icon in Cape Girardeau, day and night. Local private efforts were made to light the bridge, which makes for an outstanding backdrop to downtown Cape Girardeau. The bridge was featured in the movie Gone Girl. It's been photographed thousands of times, and used to market the city.

The bridge has become ingrained into the imagery of Cape Girardeau.

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