Crews rappel from Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge for inspection - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Crews rappel from Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge for inspection

Imagine working while hanging from ropes 300 feet above the Mississippi River. Imagine working while hanging from ropes 300 feet above the Mississippi River.
CAPE GIRARDEAU COUNTY, MO (KFVS) -

As you drive across the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge within the next few weeks, look up. You might see people rappelling from the cables.

It's all part of a routine bridge inspection.

What the crew goes through to make sure this bridge is safe is pretty amazing. Imagine working while hanging from ropes 300 feet above the Mississippi River.

It may sound like a scary job, but the crew said the view is worth it.

"It's pretty spectacular," said Chris Buckel with Modjeski and Masters. "You can see a lot of stuff. We saw a couple bald eagles circling us; they were only 30 feet above the top of the tower."

He's a worker with Modjeski and Masters, the bridge engineering firm that The Missouri Department of Transportation hired to do the inspection.

"We record or document any problems or defects with the bridge," Buckel said.

Workers rappel from the top, then attach to cables.

"We are going to be rappelling down roughly a quarter of the cables or the 128 cables on the bridge," Buckel said.

Crews rappelled on Tuesday, but the winds were too high on Wednesday.

"Your ropes can act like a sail and act unpredictably," Buckel said.

However, there is still plenty of work to do, even without rappelling. Buckel said crews also go underneath the bridge.

"[We] inspect the floor system and the steel under the bridge deck," Buckel said.

Once the 12-day inspection is finished, the report goes to MoDot.

"It's important to do to make sure all our bridges are in good condition, that they're safe for the public to drive across," said MoDot Area Engineer Brian Okenfuss.

Okenfuss said bridge inspections are required every two years.

"That's why we are out here, to find small problems before they become big problems," Okenfuss said.

Buckel said while they're making sure the bridge is safe for drivers, safety is also a top priority for workers.

"We practice 100 percent tie-off, so at all times everyone has a primary and a back-up tie-off," Buckel said. "We are all trained to do what we're doing."

Buckel said he has been doing this job for six years and he loves what he does.

"I would love to do this in 80 degree weather with no wind, but it's part of the job," Buckel said.

Because of the recent snow storm, Buckel said the project was pushed back one week. If the weather does not prevent any more workdays, the project is scheduled to be finished March 25.

Copyright 2014 KFVS. All rights reserved.

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