Sunday, April 21, 2019

1942 Road Bridge over Mississippi River at Chester, IL

(Bridge Hunter; no Historic Bridges; John A. Weeks III; no John Marvig; Satellite)

"Opened Aug. 23, 1942 as a toll bridge. Main span destroyed by severe thunderstorm July 29, 1944; reopened Aug. 24, 1946. Tolls removed Jan. 1, 1989." [Bridge Hunter]
I wonder what the strategic importance of this bridge was that they were allowed to use steel for it during World War II.

Flickr by MoDOT
Flickr by MoDOT

The Chester Bridge was constructed by the City of Chester to connect Illinois and Missouri. In the late 1930s City governmental and business leaders formed a committee to oversee the effort, which would construct a toll bridge to connect to the developing highway systems in Illinois and Missouri. They worked under the slogan, “It shall be built.”
The City of Chester contracted with Sverdrup & Parcel, Consulting Engineers, of St. Louis, Missouri, in 1939 to design the bridge. Bonds were sold to finance the construction and the first contract for construction was awarded in July 1939. The Massman Construction Company of Kansas City, Missouri was awarded the contract to build the bridge. The steelwork was done by the American Bridge Company of East St. Louis, Illinois. The bridge was completed in May 1942, and work on highway approaches was completed over the summer of 1942. The bridge was dedicated on August 23, 1942.
During the evening of July 29, 1944 a strong windstorm, possibly a tornado, struck the bridge and the two main spans were destroyed. Reconstruction and repair of the bridge took two years to complete and the bridge was reopened on August 24, 1946.
The bridge operated as a toll bridge until December 31, 1988. The Departments of Transportation in Missouri and Illinois jointly own and maintain the bridge.
The bridge is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places under criteria C for local significance in engineering. The bridge is an excellent example of large scale bridge engineering required for major river crossings.
MoDOT’s Historic Preservation Section is now accepting proposals for the relocation and reuse of the bridge or its components until December 31, 2018. A proposal checklist is available MoDOT’s Free Bridges website ( Preservation covenants may accompany the bridge.
John Weeks IIII
Several people have contributed detailed shots of the bridge in Bridge Hunter because MoDOT wants to get rid of this truss as well. [RandolfCountyHeraldTribune-2016]. "The bridge - the only Mississippi River crossing for car traffic between Cape Girardeau and south St. Louis - is also a tourist attraction as much as it is a transportation asset." [RandolfCountyHeraldTribune-2016] To be fair to the DOTs, sand blasting and painting the insides of all those built-up, V-laced truss members has to be time consuming. See below for the results of the study that was going to start in 2016.

Photo uploaded by William Pamley to Bridge Hunter

Savanah Nauman
[The river is running high. The date on the photo is Mar 2018. The grain truck emphasizes how tall the truss is.]

Street View
[This July 2018 capture shows the river is still high.]
This photo during the Flood of 2019 is what motivated this post.
Tim Larson posted
High water at the Chester Bridge
In Tim's photo, the water is almost to the base of the columns. Below, John caught the bridge with a low river level allowing us to see how much of the piers is covered in Tim's photo.
John Weeks IIII

John Canady posted
[His initial comment said Hannibal, MO. But a later comment indicated this photo is of the Chester bridge.]

Harish Mukundan, cropped
The above photo was cropped from this one.
Harish Mukundan
I couldn't find the boat launch from which the photo was taken. Then I noticed that Water Street literally had water on it!
[The copyright for this image capture is 2019. So this image is from the Flood of 2019. It is unusual for a  satellite image to be so recent.]
Tall trusses have a lot of lateral torque during heavy winds. ("tornadic wind force" [RandolfCountyHeraldTribune-2016])
Photo via Bridge Hunter
St.Louis Post-Dispatch: July 31 1944
[The paper had to get a photo from the US Coast Guard of what it looked like before it was blown down.]
It looks like they got another allocation of steel during WWII so that they could rebuild the truss.
Photo via Bridge Hunter
St.Louis Post-Dispatch: July 31 1944

Photo via Bridge Hunter
St.Louis Post-Dispatch: July 31 1944

Photo via Bridge Hunter
St.Louis Post-Dispatch: July 31 1944
As promised, the results of the study.
Chester Study, the tentative preferred alternative is U-1
The study includes a couple of nice photos of the existing bridge. Or as nice as you can get with a blue bridge against a blue sky. Again, notice how the 18-wheelers appear to be so small.
Chester Study
This photo is a reminder that this bridge is downstream from St. Louis so there are no locks to worry about. Thus the tows can get really big.
Chester Study
The U-1 plan, "which has a $191 million cost, features two 12-foot lanes and 8 to 12 foot shoulders. The bridge project would include the Horse Island Chute." If they go wtih 12' shoulders, will pedestrians be accommodated? Funding has not been identified. The current bridge, with proper maintenance, should have at least 10 more years of life. This article says the expected lifespan of the new bridge is 75 years. Somewhere else I read 100 years. [RandolphCountyHeraldTribune-2018]

I noticed the soggy green channel west of the bridge. So I zoomed out some. Sure enough, that used to be were the river went. Note where the state line runs. Remember that this satellite image was captured when the river was high.
To see what the river normally looks like, I fired up Global Earth. Most of the images have the white sandbar. In this image, there is no water on the east side and in the old river bed. I include both the time control slider at the top and the image capture date at the bottom to record that they disagree. I'm going to have to pay more attention to the image date in the future when I use this tool.
Google Earth
When I noticed the name Kaskaskia on the satellite map, I zoomed in to see what is there. Not much. This is the first time I have seen so many houses removed from a town grid that they now till the blocks.
Once again, John Weeks III talks about more things than just the bridge.
Chester is the home town of Elzie Crisler Segar, the cartoonist who created ‘Popeye The Sailor Man’. There is a small park on the Illinois side of the crossing to remember Segar, which includes a life-sized statue of Popeye. The city celebrates Segar in the annual Popeye Festival held each labor day weekend.
The village of Kaskaskia is located on the west side of the Mississippi River just upriver of Chester. Kaskaskia was a commercial and transportation hub in the 1800s. In fact, it was the first capital of Illinois until 1820. The Mississippi River shifted course to the east side of Kaskaskia in the middle and late 1800s. As a result, the village is now located on the west side of the Mississippi River. But since the state line follows the historic path of the Mississippi River, Kaskaskia remains a part of the state of Illinois. The fortunes of Kaskaskia started to wane following the shifting of the river. Its population steadily declined throughout the 1900s with only 9 people remaining in 2000.

Curtis Suthard, Mar 2019

1 comment:

  1. I crossed this bridge in 1969 or 70. It had wood boards for the car tires. Scarey.