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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge
Il-146/Mo-74 Mississippi River Crossing At Cape Girardeau
Cape Girardeau, Missouri

Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge

• Structure ID: NBI 000002003632986.
• Location: River Mile 51.5.
• River Elevation: 308 Feet.
• Highway: Il-146, Mo-74.
• Daily Traffic Count: 10,600 (2003).
• Bridge Type: Cable Stayed.
• Length: 3,955 Feet Overall, 1,149 Foot Main Span.
• Width: 94 Feet, 4 Lanes.
• Navigation Channel Width: 1,150 Feet (Estimated).
• Height Above Water: 60 Feet.
• Date Built: Opened December 13, 2003.
While the new Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge is an engineering wonder that has been widely praised, it has just as widely been criticized as being a classic example of pork barrel spending. Southern Illinois is mostly swamp and largely uninhabited, yet a bridge large enough for a 6-lane highway was constructed. At the same time, many New York City area bridges are struggling to find funding just to keep ahead of falling apart, let alone having the funding to build a six lane bridge for such a major highway as I-287.

Building cable stayed bridges is pretty much a cookie-cutter science these days. As a result, the bridge was built with few problems. The biggest issue was fissures found in the bedrock under one of the towers. The original contractor was in over their heads, and a new contractor had to be brought in to solve the problem and complete the bridge. The solution to the fissure problem was to jet-grout concrete into the cracks. Later, a major flood threatened progress. The contractor feared that the caisson on the Missouri side would be overtopped and flood. To beat the rising water, they poured 4,700 cubic yards of concrete in around the clock shifts. As it turned out, the concrete was complete before the river flooded. Had they not pushed the pour, it would have set the project back more than two months to wait for the river to go back down and to pump out the caisson.

The road deck is made out of a concrete mixed with silica fume, made from silicon metal. This is supposed to give the deck a 50 year lifespan.

Bill Emerson served in the House of Representatives from 1980 until 1996, when he lost his battle with lung cancer. Emerson served on the Public Works and Transportation committees, and was instrumental in getting this bridge approved.

This bridge replaced an older multi-span truss bridge, which was closed and removed once the new cable stayed bridge opened. As the main spans of the old bridge were imploded, two more spans of the bridge unexpectedly collapsed and fell into the Mississippi River. The western entrance to the old bridge, which survived the bridge demolition, has since been relocated to a city park on the riverfront.

The photo above is a view looking east down the length of the the traffic deck from the edge of the highway on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River. The photo below is a view of a typical bridge crossing heading eastbound towards Illinois.

Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge
Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge

The photo above is looking northeast towards the Bill Emerson bridge from a riverfront industrial park located on the west side of the river. The photo below is the western tower as seen from just under the southwest corner of the structure.

Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge
Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge
The photo above is the eastern tower as seen from the west bank of the Mississippi River from a vantage point upstream of the river crossing. The photo below is the west portal of the old bridge. The portal was left standing after the bridge was demolished. The portal has since been incorporated into a river overlook as part of the new River Campus of the Southeast Missouri State University.

Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge

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