The U.S. 54 bridge over the Mississippi River in Louisiana, known as the Champ Clark Bridge, will close each day beginning Monday, August 10 through Thursday, August 13 from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. so the Missouri Department of Transportation can conduct its annual in-depth inspection on the 87-year-old bridge.  

"Bridge crews out of Jefferson City will bring what's called the Snooper truck to help perform the inspection of the lower part of the bridge," explained Brian Haeffner, MoDOT area engineer. "We made the decision to close the bridge during the daily inspection due to safety concerns for both our workers, as well as drivers using the bridge," Haeffner said.  "This is a narrow bridge and the Snooper truck is a large piece of equipment weighing 34 tons, so it will be safer to close the bridge," he continued.

Unless something significant is found immediately, MoDOT will not have the results of the inspection for about two weeks after it is completed on the bridge.

"This bridge is the number one priority for replacement of large rural bridges in Missouri, yet we do not have the funding in Missouri to pay for our half," Haeffner said.  The estimated cost to replace the bridge is $60 million, and will be shared equally with the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Last year, MoDOT reduced the weight limit to 40 tons, which eliminated any overweight and over-dimension vehicles crossing the bridge.  "We are doing what we can to keep the bridge open until we can obtain the funding needed to replace it," Haeffner said.

An environmental assessment on the location of the bridge is nearly complete.  Once it is approved by the Federal Highway Administration, MoDOT will begin working on the design of a new bridge, and that could take up to two years.