Construction issues will further delay reopening of the westbound portion of the busy Missouri River Bridge in Jefferson City.

missouri river bridge project - Photo courtesy of MODoT

missouri river bridge project – Photo courtesy of MODoT

What started off as a painting and maintenance project became more involved as crews began work on the structure.  While blasting away old paint, a greater than expected number of rusted rivets have been discovered, and replacing them has proven to be time consuming.

Patty Lemongelli with the Missouri Transportation Department says the projected mid-October completion date is now off, and she won’t commit to a new time-table.  “We are still looking at this fall” said Lemongelli.  “I’m not comfortable saying mid-October, late-October.  I’m still comfortable saying sometime this fall.”  The MODot website says the agency “hopes to get the bridge back open in early to mid November”.

Lemongelli thinks it’s important to maintain a trusting relationsip with the public.  “The last thing we want to do with what we’ve been through with surprises, is throw out another date and not be able to commit to that date.”

The original completion date was late August before MODot extended it to mid-October. The agency says it intends to finish the project before falling temperatures make painting more difficult.  “I am confident that we are going to get it done before we see snowfall” said Lemongelli.

Lemongelli says once the maintenance work is complete, the bridge should be structurally sound for another 30 years.  MODoT has decided to do the extra work now as a preventative measure.  Officials contend it’s better to get it done while the bridge is being repainted, rather than waiting 10-15 more years when the structure could need to be completely rebuilt.  MODot estimates the bridge would have cost $100 million to replace from the ground up.

The span currently under construction was built in 1955.  It carries westbound traffic on Route 54/63.

The eastbound side opened in 1991, and is not scheduled for heavy maintenance in the near future.  Extra money was required to duplicate its appearance to the original “signature” truss bridge.  MoDOT officials say the additional expense probably would be prohibitively high today, and duplication of the original bridge would be scrapped if it were to be built from scratch today.

Both structures are three-lanes wide and carry 28,000 vehicles a day.  During construction, westbound traffic is being crammed into fewer lanes on the eastbound bridge.