Champ Clark Bridge gets approval from transportation panel

A truck crosses Champ Clark Bridge in Louisiana, Mo., in this Herald-Whig file photo. | H-W File Photo
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jul. 8, 2016 10:30 am

LOUISIANA, Mo. -- A replacement for the Champ Clark Bridge is officially on the Missouri Department of Transportation's project list.

Members of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission met in St. Louis Thursday and approved construction work for the next five years. The 88-year-old bridge is the biggest project in Northeast Missouri.

"This is definitely a great step forward for our community," said Louisiana Mayor Pro Tem Chris Koetters.

In addition to helping attract businesses to town, Koetters, who is Louisiana's director of tourism, said traffic flow should increase.

"There are a lot of people who travel from Chicago to Branson, but some of them tend to avoid the bridge. I think when they get the new bridge built we'll see a bounce in tourism traffic," Koetters said.

Engineers expect the half-mile-long span to cost about $60 million to replace. The federal government awarded a $10 million TIGER grant for the project last fall. Missouri and Illinois will come up with about $25 million each to build a new bridge about 50 feet south of the existing structure.

MoDOT Area Engineer Brian Haeffner said the existing bridge is only 20 feet wide. The new bridge will be 44 feet wide with two 12-foot lanes and 10-foot shoulders.

The timeline for completion of the bridge is not certain. Haeffner said it will be a design-build project where a single team of engineers and contractors work in concert. He said the usual design-bid-build projects take a year or two for design work and a couple of years for construction.

"We hope to reduce that three to four years through the design-build process. With that kind of project it's possible to start on construction before the entire design is completed," Haeffner said.

In Northeast Missouri the projects will involve resurfacing, repairs or replacement of bridges or safety projects. A new bridge on Mo. 168 over U.S. 61 north of Palmyra and resurfacing on McMaster's Avenue through Hannibal are included.

"Focusing on safety and preservation of our system, in northeast Missouri we have nearly 300 miles of resurfacing planned on our major roads and several intersection improvements," said MoDOT Northeast District Engineer Paula Gough.

The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission also plans to hold its September 7 meeting in Hannibal.