New river bridge
4:11 pm
Tue June 28, 2011

High water slowing work on new Mississippi River Bridge

The moderate flooding along the Mississippi River at St. Louis is costing crews building the piers for the new bridge a couple of days of work a week.

MoDOT project manager Greg Horn said workers are still out on the piers six days a week, 20 hours a day. But the flooding - the river is about five feet above flood stage - means crews can only work at about 60 percent efficiency.

"The bridge piers are above the water, so they can work, but getting out there, and getting materials and equipment out there, is not as efficient as it was when the water was lower," Horn said.

For example, the foot bridges that span the 200 feet from shore to pier had to be removed, so workers have to use a tugboat or a barge to get out there. In addition, Horn said, the current makes it hard to place the barges that hold the massive cranes.

"So they might have to put it behind the footing, and then it takes longer to reach over and grab material," Horn said.

But Horn said the crews are in better shape than they were last year when the river hit 35 feet. Foundation work was underway at the time, he says, and the current was too strong to be below the water line. The flooding cost about 80 day of work in 2010, but the contractors caught up.

Horn says work can continue this year until the Mississippi hits 38 feet. That's when closed floodgates would cut off all access to the site. Current forecasts show the river cresting right around its current height.