JB Bridge to partially reopen Friday

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The Missouri Department of Transportation announced Thursday afternoon that the JB Bridge will reopen by 5 a.m. Friday.

“The bridge can be repaired while under traffic, but all repairs are weather dependent,” MoDOT said in a press release. “Any damp weather could impact the schedule. At this time, MoDOT anticipates being able to keep two lanes open westbound between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. weekdays, with at least one lane open the remainder of the time during repairs.”

MoDOT said it will restrict overweight and oversize loads on the bridge until repairs are complete.

MoDOT announced Wednesday afternoon that the inspection on the damaged Jefferson Barracks Bridge was almost complete, but it was uncertain when the bridge would be safe to reopen because it was waiting for the results of extensive lab tests.

MoDOT said it awarded an emergency contract to get additional resources on the bridge to complete needed repairs and has already began making repairs.

“We don’t take making the decision to close the bridge lightly, but safety must be our primary concern in cases such as this,” said Tom Blair, district engineer for MoDOT St. Louis. “We are doing everything we can to expedite this process, and are working around the clock to reopen the bridge as soon as possible after we can definitely verify the bridge is safe.”

MoDOT announced Monday that all westbound lanes of I-255 at the Jefferson Barracks Bridge near Columbia are closed at least through the week following damage discovered Sunday afternoon during a routine inspection.

Missouri Department of Transportation inspectors found cracks in the steel truss of the westbound span of the bridge and announced its complete closure so engineers could further investigate and determine an emergency repair plan, according to Joe Molinaro, MoDOT’s bridge engineer for the St. Louis Region.

“Our inspectors found a six-foot crack under the weld of a critical portion of the bridge’s structure,” Blair explained at a news conference Wednesday afternoon. “Further inspections since Sunday have found similar cracks in other, similar locations of the westbound bridge. But the good news is none of those new cracks that they found are near as significant as the one they found on Sunday.”

After finding the first crack, MoDOT closed the bridge and has spent the last few days inspecting the westbound bridge more closely. It also did a second inspection of the eastbound bridge, where no cracks have been found.

Blair said he hoped to be able to offer a more definitive plan for the bridge once MoDOT got the test results.

“As soon as we get those results back and as soon as we come up with a clear strategy of when we can get the resources on the bridge and get it reopened and everything, we’ll let you know,” he said.

The test results should also help MoDOT determine the cause of the cracks.

“If those results cause us to have do really extensive repairs that take a long time, I want everyone to understand MoDOT has already begun designing a cross-over,” Blair explained. “We do not want to move head-to-head traffic on the existing 255 bridge, but we are preparing to do that if necessary. We hope that when we get the results back that they tell us we can make some pretty quick repairs, and in a matter of a few working days and nights, we can get the bridge open.”

In the meantime, MoDOT recommended drivers take the Poplar Street Bridge or Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge into St. Louis instead.

Monday morning’s rush period saw a large number of vehicles on Route 3 and westbound I-64 across the Poplar Street Bridge, MoDOT said. There was a slight increase in traffic on the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge, and no change in traffic on the westbound Chain of Rocks Bridge. 

The Illinois Department of Transportation said a large portion of commuters used northbound Route 3 through Sauget, causing significant delays accessing the Poplar Street Bridge.

“However, there was available capacity for most of the morning rush on the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial, McKinley, Eads and Chain of Rocks Bridges,” IDOT said. 

Wednesday also saw heavy traffic, though that was due in large part to several accidents throughout the area.

The westbound span of the JB Bridge opened in 1985. About 100,000 vehicles travel both spans daily.

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