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Cairo, Ill., bridges will be focus of meeting

Sunday, September 16, 2007

(Photo)
An aerial view of the Mississippi River bridge located in Bird's Point, Mo.
SIKESTON -- Sikeston officials are hoping for a big crowd at Tuesday's bridge summit.

"We want to have a good turnout from our area because we want to show our legislators that this is very important to us," said Mayor Mike Marshall.

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Clinton Community Building.

City officials have invited both state and federal legislators from Missouri to the event along with Kentucky officials to open a discussion on replacing the bridge on U.S. Route 60/62 which connects Birds Point, Mo., with Cairo, Ill., over the Mississippi River and the bridge on U.S. Route 51/60 over the Ohio River connecting Cairo with Kentucky.

Following the collapse of the Mississippi River bridge on Interstate 35 West at Minneapolis, Marshall called for a public discussion on the need to replace the aged, narrow bridges at Cairo for safety reasons.

(Photo)
Debbie Evans, Moll Printing office manager, trims an aerial photgraph of the Mississippi River bridge. The photographs will be used Tuesday night.
"According to sufficiency reports on the bridges, our Mississippi River bridge at Cairo is ranked at the top of the list for the most insufficient," Marshall said.

The Cairo bridge over the Mississippi, a truss bridge with a 20-foot wide deck, was built in 1929. The bridge over the Ohio River, built in 1937, is also a truss bridge with a 20-foot wide deck. While both are included on the Historic Bridges of the U.S. Web site, they are listed as being "functionally obsolete."

The standard lane width for interstate highways is 12 feet. During the last regular Sikeston City Council meeting Sept. 4, several anecdotes were related about truck drivers losing side view mirrors to oncoming traffic or bridge trusses while crossing these Cairo bridges as well as company policies requiring truck drivers to use alternate routes for safety reasons.

Not all companies are willing to send their drivers that far out of their way, however.

"I had the opportunity to ride from Cape Girardeau to Cairo on the Corps of Engineers' boat," Marshall said. "As we went down that way, we crossed under both bridges."

Marshall said from that perspective, he noticed how many tractor-trailer trucks travel over those two bridges. "The trucks were going by like ants, one after another, a steady flow," he said.

Approximately 6,000 vehicles cross the bridge between Kentucky and Illinois on an average day, according to a recent Kentucky Transportation Cabinet press release.

The KYTC and Illinois Department of Transportation conducted their annual joint inspection of the bridge connecting Kentucky and Illinois over the Ohio River Thursday. The inspection reportedly included walking the deck and making ground observations from beneath the bridge structure.

As of presstime, KYTC officials could not be reached for comment on the inspection. Todd Ahrens, head of planning for the Illinois Department of Transportation, said although the states split the costs of maintenance on the bridge, it is maintained by Kentucky "so they are responsible for the inspection and the reporting of inspections."

Representatives from Kentucky have indicated they will attend and speak during the bridge summit in Sikeston, according to city officials.

Ahrens said a similar joint inspection with IDOT and Missouri Department of Transportation officials on the bridge crossing the Mississippi is slated for this week.

KYTC officials plan to close the Kentucky-Illinois Ohio River bridge from 9 p.m. still 4:30 a.m. for several days beginning as early as Friday to help the contractor complete ongoing maintenance work on the structure several weeks ahead of schedule, weather permitting, and allow two-line traffic to be restored.

The work reportedly includes touch-up painting on the bridge superstructure and an overall quality assurance inspection of the maintenance and painting.


On the Net:

Historic Bridges of the U.S.: http://bridgehunter.com