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John A. Weeks III
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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
I-57 Bridge
I-57 Mississippi River Crossing At Cairo
Cairo, Illinois

I-57 Bridge

• Structure ID: NBI 0000020022224774.
• Location: River Mile 7.5.
• River Elevation: 283 Feet (Estimated).
• Highway: I-57.
• Daily Traffic Volume: 9,700 (2003).
• Bridge Type: Steel Truss Arch Suspended Deck.
• Length: 4,090 Feet Overall, 821 Foot Main Span.
• Width: 59 Feet, 4 Lanes.
• Navigation Channel Width: 804 Feet.
• Height Above Water: 107 Feet.
• Date Built: Opened 1978.
The I-57 bridge is the newest of the three major river bridges that cross the Mississippi and Ohio rivers at Cairo, Illinois. Cairo is interesting in that it is a small town that is totally enclosed within flood walls. Some of these flood walls are very tall, upwards of 40 feet. The north entrance to town is a tunnel through a dike that supports a major rail line. When high water threatens the city, a giant steel plate is dropped to close off the tunnel, turning the city into an island.

This bridge has proven to be a real challenge to photograph. This river crossing is cut through a swampy area, and as of this time, I have not found any roads that provide access to the side or bottom of the bridge. On my first visit, the only photos that I was able to get were from the traffic lanes by shooting through the windshield.

On my second visit, I had a topographical map. I did find some potential access roads, but they were all running through swamps or were chained off to prevent vehicle traffic. On my third visit, I had aerial photography, which allowed me to get within a mile of the bridge. But that mile was behind a line of trees, so I only saw the very top of the bridge.

I later learned that the levees are opened for vehicle traffic during hunting season. In late 2005, I drove the levees on the west side of the river, and found one location several miles from the bridge where I could see the profile of the structure. That is the bottom photo, taken with a long telephoto. In early 2006, I drove the levees on the east side of the river, but I discovered that they were all at least a mile from the river, which put trees in the way.

In reviewing the maps, I found one location that looked like it was close to the water, and where there would be a clear view of the bridge looking down the river. I went back in late 2006, found that location on the east levee, and indeed, most of the bridge is visible in profile. The result is the top photo.

The photo above is a view from late 2006 from the levee on the east side of the Mississippi River. This is the best view of the bridge that I have found so far without actually traveling on the bridge. The photo below is an early 2005 view from the farming area to the northwest of the bridge. There is no closer public access. The best view includes only the top of the bridge truss. It is interesting to compare the shape of the truss in these two photos. It looks very round in the photo below, but looks very elongated in the photo above.

I-57 Bridge
I-57 Bridge
These two photos are views traveling across the I-57 bridge traveling so the southwest. The photo above is the approach to the bridge, while the photo below is traveling through the truss span. These photos are from late 2004.

I-57 Bridge
I-57 Bridge
The photo above is a late 2006 view of the I-57 bridge truss span as seen from the levees on the east side of the river. This levee runs along the west side of Cairo. There are entrances near the old railroad barn on the south side of town, and near the school on the west side of town. This location is about 1-1/2 miles south of the bridge.

The photo below is from early 2006. The vantage point is on a levee on the west side of the Mississippi River just west of the US-60/US-62 bridge. The bridge is over 4 miles away. The photo had to be enlarged, even when shot with a long telephoto lens. What appears to be a sandbar between the river and the bridge is actually the west riverbank as the river makes an oxbow curve to the east.

I-57 Bridge

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