MoDOT public meeting addresses detour routes for Hannibal South Side bridge replacement

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Work began in early January on the viaduct connecting downtown Hannibal to south side and Hwy 79. The bridge will be closed for 180 days starting in March. Megan Duncan

HANNIBAL, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Transportation held a public meeting Thursday afternoon to provide an update on the Missouri Route 79 bridge replacement project.

In Hannibal, the more than 50-year-old bridge connects downtown Hannibal to South Side Hannibal stretching over Bear Creek, Sodalis Nature Park, Norfolk Southern Railroad and Warren Barret Drive.

Christopher Knapp, project manager at MoDOT, said the bridge is still safe to travel but does need to be replaced.

“People who drive this bridge daily can probably tell this bridge needs to be replaced,” he said. “They have probably noticed some of the deck conditions as well.”

Work on the bridge started earlier this month, and is tentatively scheduled to close on March 14 for no more than 188 days.

Travelers traveling north on Hwy 79 will be directed to detour to New London and to Hwy 61 using Rt. N to Rt. T and Rt. V.

Hannibal drivers will detour around the closed bridge by following South Main, which follows the riverfront to roads connecting to Hwy 79. 

Charlie and Laurel Phillips own the Quarry House, a popular Hannibal inn located at 511 Birch. The Quarry House sits on Hannibal’s South Side and is the first property after the bridge.

Laurel Phillips said she does expect to see a decline in business during the bridge construction, and has already had inquiries about how noisy construction will get and accessibility of the inn. 

While she doesn’t know what the noise level will reach, she has assured everyone that the Quarry House will be accessible, although she did express some concerns.

“I hope we don’t have any flooding this year, because Clemens Field gets flooded every year,” she said.

Despite the concerns and lapse in business, Phillips supports the bridge project.

“It has to get done and it’s never a convenient time,” she said. “But once it’s done, it’s done.”

Mo. Rep. Louis Riggs voiced the same concerns at the meeting, especially in the case of an emergency. He said precious time could be lost while going around flooding or waiting for a train to pass.

Jacob Nacke, Hannibal Police Chief and Director of Emergency Services, said these concerns have been in discussion for nearly a year.

Nacke said they have had meetings with the US Army Corps of engineers, MoDot, and communications with Norfolk Southern Railroad. 

“While we cannot plan for every scenario we have had discussions regarding flooding and railroad blockages. We have had communication with NS and during the bridge closure they have issued a memo to their operators regarding leaving a crossing open,” he said. “While there could still be blockages if a train is moving we are working to be able to know that preemptively so we can dispatch accordingly to avoid potential blockages.” 

“As you know we have little control over what the river will bring. That being said we have talked about some scenarios, but ultimately if we have flooding that impacts our ability to travel on South Main or Ely Streets we would have to staff accordingly to have responders in the affected area,” Nacke continued. “Hopefully we don’t have this type of impact, but we should start having some river forecasts in the near future.” 

The new bridge is scheduled to reopen in mid-September. The contract completion date is Oct. 1.

To learn more about the project visit the Highway 79 bridge project.

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