By VINCENZA PREVITE
[frame src="https://labortribune.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Miss.jpeg" width="250" height="150" align="left" style="2" linkstyle="none" title="The new 100 percent union-built Mississippi River Bridge under construction just north of downtown St. Louis."]St. Louis-The new Mississippi River Bridge rising just north of downtown St. Louis will be the third longest bridge in the United States and is expected to ease the congestion for traffic between Missouri and Illinois, especially for interstate tractor-trailer traffic. It will be a testament to the skills of the union construction trades.
Jeff Abbousie, executive secretary-treasuer of the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council, said the job has progressed smoothly among contractors and workers.
“There have been no disputes, safety issues or other problems at any stage of the project.”
Abbousie said the skill level among workers on the job has been superior because so many of the trades best workers were laid off when the project started and contractors were able to choose the very best workers.
The bridge will have four lanes and a span of 1,500 feet. It is expected to be finished by early 2014.
Greg Horn, manager of the project, said that since the construction of the bridge started in 2010, it has taken shape rapidly and that all Missouri and Illinois projects are on time on their master schedule.
Besides the construction of the river bridge, the $700 million project also includes the realignment of Interstate 70 that will connect the highway to the new bridge; construction of a roadway that will connect the Tri-Level Interchange, I-55/64/70, with the main span of the bridge and improvements at the Tri-Level Interchange that will connect to the I-70 connection that leads to the main span.
A sore spot among some Illinois workers is that they were covered by Missouri unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation that is inferior to what they have in Illinois. They also have to pay St. Louis’s one percent earnings tax.
Also, most of the work on the bridge itself went to Missouri workers, which Illinois workers considered unfair because Illinois is paying for a larger share of the project than Missouri.
The bridge will be a cable-stayed bridge, which means that cables connected to one or more towers built in the middle of the bridge will support the roadway. To date, contractors and workers have completed the foundation of the bridge and two land peers, which have reached half their projected height of 400 feet.
The towers are both completed in the Missouri and the Illinois side of the river and are being built out of concrete and steel. The elevated roadway that will connect the Missouri side to the Illinois side of the bridge is also being built at the moment.
Contractors expect to have the towers completed by next June, then they’ll construct the deck and the cables that will support it. After the roadway is finished, an overlay will be put over it, followed by the lighting and painting of the bridge. About 80 workers were hired to help with the construction of the bridge.
Horn said that initially, the project was supposed to be completed by the end of 2013, but due to the rise of the river’s water levels during the first year of construction, contractors couldn’t work for about 80 days.
Once the entire project is completed, another one will be on its way— the ultimate phase of the Mississippi River Bridge project. The initial phase includes the bridge and its 35 associated projects currently under construction, while the ultimate project will cost roughly $2 billion.