A bridge for safety - no more cars and pickups getting crunched by a big truck as they pass each other on our big river bridges? Or a bridge for economic reasons - open up access to the East coast for commercial and vacation opportunities? A bridge for recreational destinations - Kentucky Lake or Nashville going East or Branson going West? How about a bridge for truckers or a bridge for farm tractors?
Sounds like a lot of good reasons for connecting Missouri and Kentucky, via Illinois with an interstate (four lane) bridge. It may be "nostalgiaville" for those of us who have made these crossings for at least 50 years. Exciting in the 1940s for a young boy coming down from Wisconsin via Illinois to enter Missouri by crossing the mighty Mississippi. Even then that bridge seemed very narrow, but I could look down from the car and see the river.
Somehow the new I-57 Bridge seems more like a part of the main highway - not really an adventure. It is an adventure on the old bridges. An adventure in taking your life in your hands as you cross those two narrow bridges - going from Missouri to Illinois and then on to Kentucky without getting sideswiped as you proceed on across the Mississippi and then the Ohio Rivers. Keep both hands on the wheel and hope that the oncoming drivers are doing the same - and are not sleepy.
There are many valid reasons for building those bridges. Let's get on with the process and start getting our elected and hired officials in all three states in agreement. All it takes is money and some careful and cooperative engineering studies by highway planners and bridge engineers.
What about barge traffic up and down both rivers? What will the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or the Coast Guard say about the proposed structures interfering with navigation at the confluence of the Mississippi and the Ohio Rivers? After all our nation can move many products up and down those rivers more efficiently by using barges and tow boats than any other mode of transportation.
The real problem is how are we going to pay for the bridge or bridges and who will do it? Tougher questions that need good cooperative answers from three states and the federal government. We are too prone to go the Federal Government with our hand out.
There has been a small amount of study money for the project put in the federal budget for the next five years by Congresswoman JoAnn Emerson. That's a good start, but we need faster action. After all, some of us older citizens would like to cross that new bridge (or bridges) before we get too old to travel!
I agree with Sikeston's Mayor Mike Marshall when he said "We will build the bridge." Most of the other 120 people in attendance at the meeting last week also agreed with him. Now we have to get active and notify our Missouri elected and appointed leaders that we are ready to move forward with these bridges. The folks in Kentucky and Illinois will have to do the same.
Why not form an official two or three-state group and propose a toll bridge or bridges to connect our respective states. Next this multi-state group must be authorized to sell bonds to raise the needed construction money and get on with serious planning and construction. The old Mississippi River bridge was a toll bridge at one time and we were happy to pay to cross the river. A new toll bridge would take action by the legislature in Missouri and possibly also in Kentucky and Illinois.
If all the reasons at the beginning of this article are valid, including the safety reasons, we should move forward. Let the users of the bridges pay tolls when using the new bridge or bridges. Lanie Black, who has supported this project for the past five years, asked the audience at last week's meeting, "Who is willing to raise taxes?" Several of us reluctantly raised our hands.
Talk is cheap. What we need now is action
Peter C. Myers