By Tom Weber, KWMU
St. Louis, Mo. – The two lanes on the eastbound Blanchette Bridge that were closed this week are now open. The Missouri Department of Transportation closed the lanes when it found cracks on a support beam under the bridge.
The agency is also stepping up efforts to reinspect all bridges over the Missouri and Mississippi rivers to look for damage, possibly the result of the fluctuating temperatures in recent weeks.
The agency is adding an inspection team in hopes of looking over its 36 major river bridges within three months.
MO-DOT says the five cracks in the Blanchette's eastbound support beams do not mean it was ever in danger of falling down, but spokesman Chris Sutton says crews will have to build some kind of structure to fix the problem. "Cracks in the floor beams are not really an uncommon thing, per se," he said. "Having five separate cracks in the floor beam is definitely something you don't see every day. But that's why we do these inspections to identify the problems early enough."
The problems only affect the eastbound bridge, because engineers patched up the older, westbound bridge in 1998.
Trucks heavier than eight tons, which were prohibited from the eastbound bridge, now must stay in the three center lanes.
The eastbound side of the Blanchett normally carries more than 95,000 vehicles every day. The busiest intersection in the state, I-70 and I-270, is just a few miles east of the bridge.