As harvest season begins, farmers need to be able to get their grain to market. In the past few days, Missouri Farm Bureau learned that the Missouri Department of Transportation had cut the weight limit on the Chester Bridge from 40 tons to 25 tons while it conducted emergency repairs. This bridge, which crosses the Mississippi River from Perry County, Missouri, to Chester, Illinois, is the only crossing for at least 50 miles in either direction.

Initial indications from MoDOT were that repairs may take two months or longer. With the reduced weight limits, most grain trucks would not be able to use the Chester Bridge this harvest season, which is already beginning for a few farms and will continue for several months. To make roundtrip deliveries to elevators in Illinois, farmers would have to add at least 200 miles and four hours of driving time to their normal route.

MOFB contacted the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission and MoDOT to request assistance. Highway Commission Chairman Tom Waters, MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna, Southeast District Engineer Mark Croarkin and the MODOT Bridge Team responded immediately and expedited the process. MoDOT completed the emergency repairs yesterday and restored the 40-ton weight limit this morning.

“We appreciate the quick action by the MoDOT team to reopen this vital artery to traffic during the most critical time of year for our farmers,” said MOFB President Blake Hurst. “Our farmers have had enough challenges in 2020. We are grateful they will not have to endure yet another headache as they work to bring in crops this fall.”

The Chester Bridge is scheduled for rehabilitation in 2021 and complete replacement in 2028. The replacement project is projected to cost approximately $140 million.