I-57 Bridge Closure Causes Traffic Troubles

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By Stephanie Tyrpak

ALEXANDER COUNTY - In almost every direction Tuesday, drivers leaving or coming to Cape Girardeau found delays.

"It's unbelievable the amount of traffic out here," said driver Dick Wherenberg. "Right now it's gonna cost around 15-20 minutes."

The cause behind the back-ups, a bridge closure on Interstate 57 that began at midnight. The shutdown went smoothly, but cars and trucks soon filled the detours.

The junction of Highway 3 and Highway 146 is one of the longest delays along the route, but Illinois State Police and Alexander County Sheriff have been working all day to keep the congestion moving.

"Chaos at the moment," said Dave Dover with Alexander County Sheriff's Department. "But we're working on it, so everyone can get where they need to go."

27 miles south in Cairo, construction on the span over the Mississippi River is moving forward on schedule.

"We know it's a huge inconvenience for everybody," said IDOT engineer Ben Wills. "We would never close down the bridge unless we absolutely have to make the repairs."

A routine inspection uncovered a problem on one of the trusses. Fixing it meant taking weight off the interstate crossing. For three days straight, 24 hours a day, crews will be fixing the structure.

"We'll be as fresh as we possibly can be," said Wills. "We're going to accomplish it as fast as we can."

Highway officials knew shutting down an interstate would come with its problems and warned of the coming delays.

Tuesday gave those officials the chance to see how the detour would run. After the day's traffic delays, police will spend long shifts pushing people in the right direction.

"Don't follow the maps," said Dover. "Follow the detour signs."

Many people have been using G.P.S to find their own route, leading to more traffic in other areas. Officials are asking people to follow the detour signs, because that route was designed to move everyone as fast possible.

The suggested detour takes drivers west along Route 3 into Cape Girardeau, and then south on Interstate 55 back to I-57. Drivers should plan an extra 30 minutes into their travel time.

Stephanie Tyrpak
styrpak@wsiltv.com
Marion Regional
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