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MoDOT puts a cork in I-44 construction near Shrewsbury due to cracks in bridge

The Missouri Department of Transportation is suspending construction of the eastbound bridge on Interstate 44 at Shrewsbury on Nov. 13, 2018. Inspectors found cracks in westbound bridge, which was finished a year ago.
The Missouri Department of Transportation

Residents in the Shrewsbury area will have to wait a bit longer for their ramp on Interstate 44 to reopen.

The Missouri Department of Transportation announced Tuesday that it has suspended construction on the eastbound bridge of I-44 over the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad by Shrewsbury.

The halt comes after inspectors found a "greater-than-normal" amount of cracking on the westbound bridge on I-44 that just wrapped up construction last year.

Department officials are still unclear as to what caused the cracks. But they said since the westbound and eastbound bridges share an identical structure, the department opted to pause construction as precaution to prevent issues down the road.

The cracks are big enough for a credit card to slip through as well as water and salt to seep in. Changes in weather could affect the durability of the bridge.

Tom Blair, district engineer for MoDOT in St. Louis, said although there are cracks, the westbound bridge is still safe to use.

"This is more about quality of product," Blair said. "This is more about the quality of product out of our tax dollars. We don’t want to build a bridge that doesn’t last for its full life."

Blair said the department has brought on a third-party consultant to analyze the bridge’s design, the materials used, as well as the procedures that went into building it. That will take time.

"We want to get this done as quickly as possible but also want to make sure we determine the correct cause and appropriate fix," Blair said. "Once the detailed analysis is complete, we will determine our course of action and will work as quickly as we can to get the eastbound interstate bridge open to traffic."

Prior to suspension, the project was scheduled to wrap up by the end of this calendar year. Work zones on I-44 between Shrewsbury and Jamieson will remain up, while the Shrewsbury ramp to eastbound I-44 will stay closed. That spells bad news for the people in the area.

"Unfortunately, that bridge is too close to where that ramp comes on," Blair said. "We have not found a way that we could open that ramp up back up safely."

Blair said this weekend crews will close all westbound lanes of I-44 between Hampton and Shrewsbury and all but one eastbound lane at Shrewsbury starting at 8 p.m. on Friday.

Starting at 7 p.m. Friday, drivers on westbound I-44 will no longer be able to take the Hampton, Southwest, Arsenal, Jamieson and Shrewsbury exits.

Crews are expected to reopen the lanes on Monday at 6 a.m.

Construction on the eastbound bridge is expected to resume this spring.

Follow Marissanne on Twitter: @Marissanne2011

Marissanne is the afternoon newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.

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