Relief is on the way for travelers of an iconic and busy mid-Missouri bridge.  The westbound lanes of the Missouri River Bridge in Jefferson City will reopen in mid-November after lengthy construction delays.

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 at the start of May became more involved when extensive rust was discovered on the structure.  Even with crew working around the clock, the initial mid-August scheduled reopening was scrapped, as was an October 15th deadline.

The Missouri Department of Transportation was further pressured when, during the past couple of months, frequent bridge travelers became concerned when crews hadn’t been seen working around the clock to repair it.

MoDOT’s Patty Lemongelli says workers were actually on the job 24-hours day, but weren’t visible because they were dispatched to the structures underbelly.  And she says they’ve recently stopped working all night.  “With the cooler fall temperatures, and with the humidity levels around the river, it just doesn’t lend itself to painting the structure.  We’re also in the area of working on the bridge over the railroad.  Those hours are restricted as well, where night work cannot be done because we have to have a flagman out there on the railroad.”

MoDOT personnel now say they’re confident the work will be complete, and the structure open, by November 14th.  Lemongelli says the company working on the span, Saffo Contractors of Wilmington, North Carolina, will be penalized if the deadline’s not met.  “It’s now in the contract.  And if they exceed that, then they go into liquidated damages.”

MoDOT Central District Engineer David Silvester says he’s pleased with the company’s work.  “Saffo is providing a quality product at a very reasonable price.  This investment will allow us to get another 20-30 years of service out of the bridge. Without routine maintenance, we’d eventually have to replace the bridge at an estimated cost of $100 million. That’s money we certainly don’t have.”

The westbound bridge was built in 1955 and carries about 28,000 vehicles a day.  The eastbound side was built in 1990.  Lemongelli says it’s not in need of immediate repair.  She stressed crews will not be setting up on that structure after the westbound side is complete, which has been common misconception in the public.