Most commuters are used to the lane closures on the Blanchette Bridge five months into the year-long reconstruction project.
However, the recent activity from crews putting up the new steel truss has led to some rear-end accidents in the area, said Linda Horn Wilson, spokesperson for the Missouri Department of Transportation.
"Most of the crashes we're having are rear-end crashes," Horn Wilson said. "Some of it is people driving too fast, crashing into the car in front of them. The other issue is, since steel is going up, people are looking and are hitting the car that's slowed or stopped in front of them."
Horn Wilson said that MoDOT works with the Missouri State Highway Patrol to see if there's a common place or time for accidents, but said the main factor has been speeding.
"The bottom-line message is we need people to slow down," she said. "It's signed 45 mph through the work zone... that's for driver safety. The lanes are only 10 feet wide. There's no shoulder, no room for error."
Drivers and emergency responders have been good about moving fender bender accidents off of the bridge quickly, Horn Wilson said.
Steel Truss to be Built this Spring
Crews are working this spring to put up the steel truss on the north span of the bridge. In the summer, crews are expected to be working on the concrete bridge deck. The entire project is expected to be finished this fall.
The river has made construction work challenging, Horn Wilson said. In the winter, the river was so low that crews had to build a causeway so they could get cranes out to the bridge. The original plan had been to put the cranes on barges.
Last week, the river quickly rose to 23 feet, which is action flood stage, and crews had to move quickly to put cranes on barges. The river has since returned to about 14 feet.
Traffic has responded well to the lane closures and back up times during rush hour have been as expected, she said. Before construction began about 160,000 vehicles used the bridge in a day. That number has dropped to about 145,000 vehicles in a day.
"It's roughly a 5- or maybe 10-minute delay to get through there," she said. "The main feed back is that it's better than they thought it would be."
Survey Measures Effectiveness of Message Boards
The University of Missouri Civil Engineering Department is conducting a survey about MoDOT's use of message boards on highways near the Blanchette Bridge to warn people that two lanes are closed and of travel times.
"It helps to let us know how helpful are those signs and what could we be doing differently," Horn Wilson said.