The project involved the construction of a cable-stayed bridge over the Mississippi River connecting Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and East Cape Girardeau, Illinois.
The Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge was constructed to replace the Cape Girardeau Bridge, a steel truss bridge built in 1928. Construction of the bridge was performed just south of the original bridge, which was demolished in 2004.
The large-scale cable-stayed bridge was constructed in the always challenging conditions of the Mississippi River. The project was located in the area of a sharp river bend, which created barge tow navigation hazards. The portion of the river was susceptible to large elevation fluctuation—a total of 40 feet in variation. Severe ice floes occurred, along with heavy debris drift during flood conditions. The sandy river soils were prone to scour, which required rock armoring of the cofferdams and other temporary structures.
The 86-foot-4-inch-wide bridge is supported by a total of 15 piers, including the land abutments in Missouri and Illinois, and has a main span of 1,150 feet and two side spans at 468 feet each. The bridge substructure work included two dredged caissons and two 356-foot-tall main pylons. The drilled shaft foundation has 10 drilled shafts that extend into the rock 12 to 15 feet, each with a diameter of 6 feet. The superstructure work included 128 stay cables, eight million pounds of structural steel and a precast concrete deck. The two concrete caissons were located at the Illinois pylon and Illinois back pier of the main cable stayed span. The caissons were approximately 60 feet wide by 100 feet long by 35 feet tall. Each caisson contained 15 dredge wells approximately 15 feet in diameter. Both were constructed using the sand island method with 60-foot-tall sheet pile follower cofferdams attached to the top. The total sinking distance for each caisson was approximately 60 feet.