ALAN REED | The Sun
The U.S. 60 and 62 bridge over the Mississippi River was closed in January after truckers with heavy loads damaged the structure after failing to heed weight restrictions. The Illinois Department of Transportation hopes to repair the bridge by Dec. 1. After repair, the bridge will be safe for all loads.
ALAN REED | The Sun
Jay Buchanan, a Wickliffe farmer, faces an extra 10 to 15 miles to each leg of his trip to the Birds Point Granary in Missouri. When his John Deere implements break, he must transport them to East Prairie, Mo., for repair or pay additional milage to technicians to come to his Kentucky farms and make repairs due to the bridge's closure.
The end of a long detour around the closed bridge carrying U.S. 60 and 62 over the Mississippi River is in sight. The bridge near Cairo, Ill., closed Jan. 11, creating a detour for drivers between Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri.
The Illinois Department of Transportation awarded the contract to repair the bridge to Chicago firm Kovilic Construction for $1.6 million, according to Keith Miley, IDOT operations engineer. Construction will begin in the next few weeks, and finish by Dec. 1, Miley said.
“We’ve detected 108 problems with the floor beams and 25 with the top flanging,” Miley said. “They will open the deck, replace the steel and correct some corrosion problems, then replace the deck. It’s easier to do when the bridge is closed for traffic.”
Miley said IDOT closed the bridge when inspecting engineers detected structural faults and imposed a 15-ton weight limit.
Several truckers did not observe the weight limit first enforced on Nov. 29, and were issued a total of $700,000 in fines. When fines weren’t effective, IDOT closed the bridge. Miley said that the bridge from Alexander County, Ill., to Mississippi County, Mo., saw about 3,500 vehicles crossing per day, with 23 percent of those heavy trucks.
“The bridge should be in good shape to accept all legal loads after repair,” Miley said.
Miley said the detour directs motorists through Cairo and to the Interstate 57 bridge from Illinois into Missouri. The detour through Cairo is less than 5 miles, but for suppliers of the paper mill in Wickliffe, owned by NewPage Corp., and some of the mill’s employees, the detour is longer.
Sam Zellars, safety advocate at the Wickliffe mill and 40-year employee, said his normal drive took him through Charleston, Mo., along the levee on U.S. 60, across the bridge over the Mississippi, then over the Ohio River into Ballard County. Now he must travel 10 miles out of his way and through Cairo.
“Cairo is noted to be a high speeding-enforcement area and a trip adds 24 to 25 extra miles to my drive,” Zellars said. “The detour adds 30 minutes to my day, and that’s rough if you have to work a 12-hour shift. I need to get up 20 minutes earlier to get to work on time. It’s a pretty big inconvenience.”
Another five or six employees face a similar detour, said Sandra Wilson, NewPage spokeswoman. She added the mill gets wood and wood products delivered by 30 to 40 trucks each day. With an extra 10 to 12 miles on a one-way trip, the mill pays more for a load of wood from independent truckers. Wilson did not have an average price increase for loads delivered.
The closed bridge makes for a longer route for farmers.
Jay Buchanan of Wickliffe said his trip to the Birds Point Granary is about 10 or 15 miles longer with a load of wheat or corn after a harvest.
“It’s a hassle going through Cairo when the speed limit is 30,” Buchanan said. “We have to drive through going both ways. All my fields are in Kentucky.”
Buchanan said he uses John Deere implements for farming. When one breaks down, he is forced to trailer it and drive to East Prairie, Mo., for repairs, or pay additional mileage for service calls.
“During harvest season, we’re going over two or three times a week,” Buchanan said. “Some weeks it’s more if we have a breakdown. The detour adds 30 minutes.”