Brett Blume

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) –  Work on the new Mississippi River Bridge is being hampered by something that never showed up in any blueprints — the Drought of 2012.

“We had planned to float some of these deck sections in on barges, but since the river’s so low the barges can’t get between the piers and the banks,” explains MoDOT’s Greg Horn, project director. “So we’re having to build those sections in place, which of course takes more time.”

Horn tells KMOX News they’re having to transfer each piece of the new bridge deck across the low water using cranes, instead of building entire sections ahead of time and floating them across on barges.

The drought-stricken river, which currently measures -0.8 below sea level at St. Louis, has been creating problems all up and down the length of the mighty Mississippi.

Barges have gotten stuck on newly-exposed sand banks, entire sections of river have been closed to navigation, and salt water from the Gulf of Mexico has even starting seeping into the river delta down south.

Horn says barring any further unforeseen circumstances, however, they’re still on track to open the new bridge in January 2014.

The scale of the project is enormous, Horn points out.

In addition to putting in the bridge deck, crews are also currently stringing up the steel cables that will support the $670 million dollar span.

“The cables are about the diameter of a nickel,” Horn says. “There’s about six-hundred miles worth of cable, which is enough to stretch from here to Kansas City and back.”

It’s expected to take about a year to finish building the deck and stringing all of that cable.


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