Summer’s more than halfway over, and as thoughts turn to school year beginnings, drivers all over the Parkland have expressed curiosity as to when two major projects will be finished on US 67. Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) officials recently provided an update on the projects, and also issued news concerning the Chester, Illinois, bridge which many in Southeast Missouri use to cross the Mississippi.
J-Turn at US 67, Route H
Chris Crocker, area engineer with MoDOT’s southeast district, said the US 67 J-turn at Highway H is expected to be completed by late summer or early fall.
“Contracting closed the median crossover at Route H on June 27 in order to complete the work in the median,” he said. “Our contractor finished placing and compacting base rock and plans to begin prepping for concrete to construct the median deceleration lanes and J-turn the week of Aug 8.”
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In the spring, a $1,158,777 contract was awarded to Fronabarger Concreters Inc. for the intersection of Route H and 67 intersection south of Farmington. The dangerous crossover had seen multiple accidents over the last few years.
US 67 bridge replacement, Desloge
Crocker said the contractor has finished placing the concrete deck on the southbound lanes of the bridge and will start tying steel in preparation to pour a barrier wall soon. He said it should be finished by the end of August, which is about one week after North County R-1 School District begins.
North County School District primarily serves the towns of Desloge and Bonne Terre and covers the most bus miles of any school district in the county, according to a school official.
Construction on the southbound bridge began at the beginning of June, with southbound US 67 drivers detouring, nonstop, down the Desloge exit and up the US 67 on-ramp since then. Drivers who normally would travel under the bridge overpass have had to get creative in accessing the roads east of US 67, often via the Parkway exit and eastern outer road leading to Desloge.
The project is part of the $ 25.5 million Bootheel Bridge Bundle awarded to Robertson Contractors Inc. to improve 17 bridges throughout the Bootheel region.
Chester River Bridge
Chester, Illinois, is about 47 miles southeast of the St. Francois County seat in Farmington, but it’s one of only a few convenient ways south of St. Louis to cross the Mississippi River and head east. The truss bridge connecting Perryville with Chester over Highway 51 was first built in 1942 and rebuilt two years later, after it was majorly damaged by a storm.
MoDOT figures 7,000 vehicles — including farm implements that sometimes require the bridge’s closure to all other traffic — travel it every day. Since the bridge ends at the Missouri levee, it’s subject to flooding and closure. A new bridge, although it hasn’t been sited yet, will definitely pass way over the levees.
State Rep. Dale Wright, R-Farmington, was instrumental in fast-tracking the bridge’s replacement, with Illinois Department of Transportation as a partner. The Chester Bridge is in his district of representation until Jan. 1, when redistricting switches it to Rep. Rick Francis, R-Perryville.
He said he was contacted quite some time ago by retired medical-supply company founder and Cape Girardeau philanthropist Earl Norman, who is not only interested in the Chester Bridge, but in the possibility of making it part of a larger “TransAmerica Corridor” stretching from Virginia to California. Norman, Wright said, is a visionary who has been working on major highway projects, pretty much ever since President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s interstate system was created.
The corridor, which Wright said is currently listed third on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s project list, would be a new interstate connecting west and east coasts and possibly incorporating systems to pump water to the west, create new, green energy resources, and incorporate high-speed rail. Points along the conceived routes from Virginia to California have signed on to the cause over the course of 30 years — including multiple Indian reservations — according to an article in the Southeast Missourian.
For now, Wright said, the focus is on the Chester bridge project. He said when Illinois officials were approached by Missouri legislators and government officials, they appeared to be alarmed by Missouri’s intentions to fast-track the bridge’s replacement.
Wright said a meeting was set up involving him, Norman, MoDOT officials, the state senator from Illinois, and the mayor and city administrator of Chester.
“So we were trying to convince them, let’s build (the bridge) south or north, and rather than constructing just a bridge, how about thinking about a whole highway system so that you don’t have to slow down, you can just drive right across like you do the Emerson Bridge in Cape,” Wright said. “They freaked out because they had plans on their side of the river already drawn in environmental studies, I guess done and so on. And course Chester didn’t want to be bypassed and become a ghost town.”
Wright said, in the past, the two states have been variously interested in addressing the bridge, but chronologically the interests didn’t align until now. Chester Bridge has long been a top priority for MoDOT, but Illinois, Wright said, had intended to focus on the two-lane bridge at Louisiana, Missouri, and start construction on Chester Bridge in 2026 with completion around 2028, in the meantime spending millions of dollars on improvements to the existing span.
“But because of us kind of snooping around and talking to them, it scared them on the Illinois side so they bumped theirs up to where now it’s scheduled for 2023 to begin construction,” Wright said. “And so anyway, just by blind luck, we kind of scooted the project up two or three years. They’re already doing the environmental studies. They’ve put out bids for contractors to come in. They’re looking at a design-build project rather than the government putting the specs out there, allowing these contractors to design their own bridge and present it, and then we’ll choose the best project.”
Crocker recently provided an update on the project, which is being spearheaded by MoDOT Project Manager Brian Okenfuss:
- A rehab project began July 5, so travelers are dealing with lane reductions and delays. Completion is anticipated this winter.
- The new bridge will be built using the design-build method. “We will put out a Request for Proposal (RFP) in August and will hire a contractor early next year (2023),” Crocker said. “They will start construction soon after that. We anticipate the new bridge will be open to traffic in December of 2025.”
A MoDOT news release issued recently announced four teams had been chosen to further develop their proposals on the new bridge:
- Massman Traylor Chester Joint Venture: comprised of Massman Construction, Traylor Bros., Inc., and HNTB Corporation
- The Ames Team: comprised of Ames Construction Inc. and Parsons Transportation Group
- American Bridge/Burns & McDonnell Team: comprised of American Bridge Company, Burns & McDonnell Engineering Company, Inc., and Modjeski and Masters, Inc.
- Lunda Team: comprised of Lunda Construction Company and T.Y. Lin International
“We are excited about the interest we received and look forward to working with the shortlisted teams to further develop their proposals,” added Okenfuss. “Each team has great experience in both design and construction, and the proposals will detail their plans to meet or exceed each project goal.”
Sarah Haas is the assistant editor for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-518-3617 or firstname.lastname@example.org.