July 31, 2003 at 11:51 PM CDT - Updated June 23 at 6:05 AM
Emerson Bridge Nearing Completion By: Susan Stiegman
CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO --About 4,000 feet down, only six-and-a-half more to go. The new Emerson Bridge is almost complete. The bridge is a symbol of Heartland progress. It's nearly five times the width of the old bridge, and it towers about 300 feet in the air. Best of all, it won't be long before we can all enjoy this spectacular view.
In just a few weeks, this engineering marvel will be one complete stretch across the Mississippi River.
Only a few steps remain.
"The center steel section will be set August 12th or 13th," says Stan Johnson, an area engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation. "Soon after that, we'll lay the concrete deck on the precast decks."
The $100-million structure of steel and concrete is grand in every sense of the word.
"The old bridge is about 20 feet wide between the rails," estimates Johnson. "This one is going to be right at 100 feet wide. That one has one ten foot lane in each direction. This one has two 12 foot lanes in each direction."
The facts and figures tell only part of the story. Admired as a hard-earned success, the bridge design is one of the greatest works of art that the 20th century has produced. One that the late congressman Bill Emerson used his influence to bring here.
A six-foot girder and about 30 feet of concrete are all that are needed yet to connect the bridge..And when the first car rolls across, many of the workers will go home with quite a story to tell their families.
"We all have a single purpose in mind: to get this bridge done before the other one falls down," says equipment superintendent Ivon Sharp. "Hopefully, we can look back and tell our grandkids and they can tell their grandkids."