ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) -More than three years after breaking ground, the Missouri and Illinois sides of the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge now meet in the middle.
On Friday, the final steel beam was lowered into place connecting the two halves.
The rain did not make the job any easier, but it also did not make it any less momentous.
"It`s the biggest thing that will ever happen in my career and for most of these people it will be the biggest thing that happens in their career," said IDOT`s Supervising Field Engineer John Scheibal , talking about the entire project.
Bridging the final ten feet between Missouri and Illinois required iron workers to move with the precision of diamond cutters.
"You always worry (about the fit) but with technology now, everything is a lot more accurate than it was years ago," Scheibal said.
The team from MoDot is equally as pleased and relieved, though not surprised the beam fit as planned.
"We`ve been going through the final adjustments on cables from the towers the past few weeks and we`ve got it dead on," said MoDot Project Director Randy Hitt. "The last piece should fit in like a glove."
As one crane removed the temporary bridge crews had been using to move from side to side, the other gently crane lowered the 30,000 pound steel beam into place, stopping just shy of the final location so workers could have their picture taken next to it.
Some even signed their names on it.
If crews continue to have good weather through the fall, they expect the bridge to open in early 2014.
"We are getting closer and closer everyday," Scheibal said. "It`s a great accomplishment."
Work to connect the Stan Musial Memorial Bridge over the Mississippi River is nearly complete.
Crews working with the Missouri Department of Transportation carefully slid an 11,000-pound steel edge girder into place on the north side of the bridge. Then, it was time for the girder on the south side. MoDOT officials said the work was going to take most of the day. The pieces actually went into place in a matter of minutes. But, the alignment and bolting took much more time. One girder is not yet secured. I asked a spokesperson from the collaborative firm of Massman, Traylor & Alberici if crews were disappointed they fell behind schedule.
"I don’t know if they would be disappointed,” said Lynne Gebert. “I think they want it right. Everything is so detailed with it, that you have to have it just perfect. So, they’d rather have it perfect. And if it’s going to take time then, that’s what it has to have."
Engineers said they were excited about this milestone. But, there was still a long list of work left to get the bridge open by early next year.
"Once this is completed, we will set the concrete panels on Saturday,” said Randy Hitt, Mississippi River Bridge Project Director. We have a two-inch concrete driving surface that goes over the entire bridge, barrier walls, the towers will be painted, a lot of electrical work. So, a lot of work to be done."
The excitement over the progress was bittersweet, however. The crew was missing Andy Gammon. The 35-year-old construction worker died in an accident while working on the bridge in March of 2012. Hitt said Gammon would be proud to see how far the project had come.
“I think anyone in the labor force would be proud of the projects they work on,” he said. “We’re happy to see that a portion of the approach was named in his honor.”
Crews were expected to press ahead on Friday. The first task was to tighten down that remaining girder. The next phase was supposed to start at 9 a.m. Friday. But instead, a 30,000-pound floor beam would be lowered starting at noon.
We are at an old pumphouse near Mullanphy Street east of Broadway. MoDOT invited the public to watch. Officials urge anyone who comes to keep the roads and bike trails clear. Here is a map to the pumphouse.