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Rural Missouri Magazine

A span honors a man
Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge, Cape Girardeau

by Jarrett Medlin

On the eastern edge of Cape Girardeau, two steel, H-shaped structures rise high above the horizon. Attached to the giant beams, a series of massive cables span the mighty Mississippi River and stretch into Illinois. The bold, modern structure stands in stark contrast to its rural southeast Missouri surroundings.

Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge, named after the late eight-term southeast Missouri congressman who led efforts for the bridge’s funding, opened to traffic in 2003 and serves as an impressive accomplishment. Its completion was a culmination of 15 years of planning and seven years of construction.

The cable-stayed structure replaced the rusted, 75-year old Cape Girardeau Bridge, which spanned just 25 feet and had two narrow lanes barely wide enough for two semi trucks to pass.

The new, $100 million bridge is one of only 33 bridges of its kind in the United States. It rises 60 feet above the Mississippi and stretches 4,000 feet. Currently, about 14,000 vehicles cross its four lanes each day. By 2015, volume is expected to increase to 26,000 vehicles per day.

Jo Ann Emerson, Bill’s widow and a current U.S. representative, wrote of the accomplishment, “The bridge embodies Bill’s ideals — a drive to connect good ideas with the men and women who could make them work, a dedication to southern Missouri’s growth and prosperity.”

 

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