Construction to build a new Chester Bridge over the Mississippi River may not begin until 2026, based on a variety of factors, two experts told a crowd at the Chester Eagles Club on Tuesday.
A crowd of over 60 people attended the community lunch meeting, sponsored by the Chester Chamber of Commerce.
Speakers were Buddy Desai, project manager for the proposed Chester Bridge; and Jason Williams, the Missouri Department of Transportation's bridge transportation engineer.
In speaking about the proposed bridge reconstruction, they said that the Chester Bridge project is listed as the #2 priority for the state of Missouri, behind the Chain of Rocks Bridge near St. Louis.
Neither Missouri or Illinois have officially identified funding sources for the Chester Bridge, they added.
The proposed Chester Bridge would have two 12 foot lanes with 8 to 10 foot shoulders and would be constructed 50 to 60 feet upstream of the existing bridge, they explained.
Extensive planning and studies continue, based on requirements of the U.S. Coast Guard, the Federal Aviation Association and the Federal Highway Administration.
Another environmental assessment is scheduled for later this year, followed by a public hearing early in 2020 and completion of the study in the Spring of 2020.
Don Welge, president of Gilster Mary Lee Corp in Chester, joined other business leaders in expressing concern over the lengthy timetable for this project. The bridge is critical to commerce, they said, not just for the goods and services that have to cross, but for businesses and their employees who are on opposite sides of the river.
Welge pointed out how long the Chester Bridge was closed to traffic during the 2019 Spring flood.
"The bridge remained closed a full week after the floodwater went down on the Missouri approach," he said.