JEFFERSON CITY – Unforeseen structural repairs uncovered during the painting process will delay the opening of the westbound Route 54/63 bridge over the Missouri River in Jefferson City, Missouri Department of Transportation officials announced today.

The bridge painting project was expected to be finished by the end of August. A re-opening date has not been set.

“As the contractor worked to remove the old paint, the blasting process revealed a structure that was not in as good of condition as we expected,” said David Silvester, district engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Central District. “Because these repairs will take extra time to address, we have no choice but to delay the opening of the bridge.

We know this is not what folks want to hear, and we are truly sorry for the inconvenience this delay will cause. However, it would be unsafe and imprudent for us to ignore the repairs that need to be made just to meet the project deadline. We hope our customers will understand that and bear with us for a little while longer.”

More specifically, Silvester said, the bridge blasting revealed a larger number of deteriorated rivets that need to be replaced. MoDOT has worked with the contractor, Saffo, Inc. to renegotiate the contract to include these and other structural repairs.

The westbound bridge was built in 1955 and carries about 28,000 vehicles a day.

“It’s not unusual to find unexpected problems on a bridge this old and a project this complicated,” said State Bridge Engineer Dennis Heckman. “Repairing major river bridges is a massive and complex undertaking. That’s why we must address these issues now so we can ensure the integrity of the bridge for years to come.”

Silvester said a new completion date had not been set yet because it is difficult to determine if the contractor will encounter additional repairs that will need to be made.

“Due to the unexpected repairs we’ve already experienced, we are unsure what we might find going forward,” Silvester said. “We know the closure will extend into the school year and beyond Labor Day. We need to allow the contractor the time needed to get the job done right.”

Silvester noted the bridge work is an important investment in preserving the state’s transportation infrastructure. If the bridge were not properly maintained, it would eventually have to be replaced at an estimated cost of $100 million. With the state’s long-term insufficient funding challenge, finding the money for a project that size would be difficult.

“The structure is sound and the maintenance work we’re performing is necessary to maintain the bridge and extend its life for another 20-30 years,” Silvester said. “Major river bridges are a big investment on our system, and it’s important that we maintain that investment.”

Silvester said MoDOT would keep motorists informed every step of the way as the project moves forward.

“We want to sincerely thank drivers for the patience they’ve shown with this project,” Silvester said. “Bridge commuters have adjusted to the work zone well, and we’ve had very few issues in the work zone. It’s apparent that many travelers are adjusting their travels over the bridge to avoid peak travel times.”

More information, including the option to sign up for e-mail updates, is available at or by calling 1-888-ASK-MoDOT (275-6636).