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      Efforts to replace Champ Clark Bridge begin

      The process to construct a new bridge to replace the 84-year-old Champ Clark Bridge in Louisiana, Missouri officially begins Wednesday, August 29th.

      The Missouri Department of Transportation will held a press conference Wednesday afternoon at one at the Twin Pikes Family YMCA in Louisiana to kick off efforts to replace it.

      The project will start with an environmental assessment. That could take up to two years. During the course of the environmental assessment, MoDOT will hold multiple public meetings which it expects will create a citizen's advocacy group.

      Though efforts will be officially underway, they will be limited as no funding is available for the project. Replacing the bridge could cost up to $100 million, which would likely be covered by a combination of federal and state funds. Costs will shared between MoDOT and IDOT, with MoDOT managing the project. The estimate includes roads to connect U.S. 54 to the new bridge, engineering costs, right-of-way property acquisitions, the environmental assessment, as well as the actual construction of the bridge.

      Over the past 10 years MoDOT spent approximately $6 million maintaining the 84-year-old bridge. Further maintenance will be necessary to continue to keep the bridge safe.

      As the project is still in its earliest stages, MoDOT has more questions than answers. The environmental assessment will help answer those questions.

      "We all agree that replacing the bridge is the need but there's many other considerations such as location, the type of bridge, as well as where we tie in on both the Illinois side and the Missouri side," said MoDOT District Engineer Paula Gough.

      The EA will also decide if the bridge will be two or four lanes, and how traffic will be handled during construction. The project requires public involvement to help answer these questions. MoDOT will hold several meetings to gather public input throughout the process.

      After a high profile fatal accident on the bridge last year, MoDOT had to do a safety inspection for the second time last year. Officials say that typically a bridge sees one inspection per year, but that more intensive inspections are done regularly as well, including anytime a car hits the bridge.

      "The bridge is at that age, and we're concerned with safety and we want to keep the bridge safe," Illinois Department of Transportation John Negangard said.

      MoDOT District Engineer Paula Gough says that advancement on the project is unrelated to the accident. She explained that the Champ Clark Bridge was named a priority after the state found funding to replace the Washington Bridge crossing the Missouri River on Highway 47. Gough also ensures that the bridge is structurally sound.

      The bridge sees an average daily usage of about 4,200 vehicles. Commercial vehicles make up about 15% of usage. Comparatively, the Mark Twain Bridge near Hannibal sees an average of about 13,000 vehicles daily.