Mississippi River bridge on state’s critical list, but it’s just one of 600 statewide

From the St. Louis Post Dispatch

LOUISIANA, MO. • The Champ Clark Bridge that connects this Pike County town to Illinois tops the statewide list of rural spans that need replacement, says the Missouri Department of Transportation.

It’s 87 years old. Oversized vehicles are banned from crossing it. And this week, it’s undergoing its yearly safety inspection — something most bridges get every two years, but that officials say is necessary more frequently on this bridge due to its age and condition.

The cost for a new bridge is estimated at $60 million, to be split between Missouri and Illinois.

Illinois says it can come up with its share. Missouri cannot.

The truss bridge is one of roughly 600 statewide in critical condition, and that MoDOT is struggling to maintain — and in some cases, search for money to replace — in the midst of a much-publicized budget crunch.

Last year’s inspection on the Clark Bridge found “structural deficiencies” that led to the tighter rules on weight.

The Mississippi River bridge was closed Wednesday as crews conducted this year’s inspection using a “snooper truck.” Workers went beneath the bridge in buckets, taking photos and jotting down notes about problems that can’t be spotted from the river shore or the road, said David Hagemeyer, a MoDOT bridge inspection engineer.

They looked for deterioration in the steel beams, crumbling parts of the deck and they inspected the bridge piers, he said.

MoDOT said the bridge is safe to cross, but cautioned that more dire restrictions, even closure, could arise if problems are found during the inspection. A few bridges statewide already have been shut down indefinitely because MoDOT doesn’t have the money to make the fixes.

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