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Cape Girardeau Bridge


Overview from Missouri side

Photo taken by James Baughn

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BH Photo #104472


General plan and elevation

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Historic American Engineering Record

From microfilm of the original construction drawings


Stress sheet

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Historic American Engineering Record

From microfilm of the original construction drawings



The Cape Girardeau Bridge is a multiple-span structure over the Mississippi River. From west to east the bridge consists of six concrete deck girder spans, two plate girder spans, a continuous through truss forming two cantilevered channel spans of 671 feet, and six Parker through truss spans, for a total length of 4,744 feet. When completed the Cape Girardeau Bridge was distinguished as an important interstate link between southeast Missouri and the middle Mississippi Valley region. It stands as an excellent example of monumental steel truss construction spanning an important national riverway.

-- Historic American Engineering Record


Compiled by James Baughn

June 1919
H.L. Albert, President of the Commercial Club, persuades Smith Engineering Co. of St. Louis to send a representative to draw up plans for a new "wagon bridge" across the Mississippi River at Cape. Little seems to come of this, however.
Sept. 10, 1924
Item in the Southeast Missourian discusses possibility of equipping Thebes Bridge to also carry vehicular traffic
Aug. 1925
Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce creates a bridge committee to study the possibility of erecting a new bridge at Cape
Dec. 7, 1925
Chamber hires Fred W. Adgate to draw up preliminary plans and a cost estimate for a new bridge
Jan. 20, 1926
Adgate reports to the Chamber that a bridge could be built for about $1.5 million
May 4, 1926
President Calvin Coolidge signs a bill approving the construction of a bridge at Cape
August 20, 1926
At a public meeting, the Chamber reveals plans for fund raising and the engineering firm of Harrington, Howard and Ash presented an overall bridge design and the results of a traffic survey
Sept. 6, 1926
Intense sales drive launched across the city to raise $300,000 in preferred stock for the bridge
Sept. 10, 1926
Bridge committee announces that nearly $400,000 had been raised, causing a spontaneous celebration to erupt across town
Sept. 24, 1926
Cape Girardeau Bridge Company formally incorporated
Dec. 4, 1926
Bidding opens for the bridge construction. American Bridge Co. won the bid for the superstructure and U.G.I. Contracting Co. won for the substructure. Both bids totalled about $1.2 million
Jan. 18, 1927
War Department issues permit for construction
Feb. 5, 1927
Construction begins on the first pier
Mar. 18, 1927
Pier 1 completed
Mar. 21, 1927
Rising river level reaches flood stage, halting construction of the piers in the river
Apr. 20, 1927
River finally crests at a level higher than any flood since 1844
May 7, 1927
Construction resumes as the river dropped below flood stage
Oct. 3, 1927
American Bridge Co. starts work on the superstructure
Apr. 16, 1928
U.G.I. Contracting Co. finishes work on the substructure with the completion of Pier 6
June 1928
Work on erecting the last steel truss span completed
Jul. 5, 1928
F. W. Keller starts work on paving Morgan Oak Street leading up to the bridge
Jul. 7, 1928
Dan Munro, subcontractor, starts laying the concrete floor
Aug. 1, 1928
Fed up with the foot dragging by Illinois to build an eastern connection with the bridge, the Cape Girardeau Bridge Co. commences work on building a temporary road to McClure
Aug. 16, 1928
Worker Charles Knight falls to his death from Span 8, the only fatality during bridge construction
Aug. 22, 1928
Concrete floor completed and later the asphalt surface was paved
Sept. 3, 1928
Bridge opens to the first traffic at 11:43 AM during a celebration attended by nearly 15,000 people. However, starting the next day, the bridge was closed to complete last-minute paving and painting
Sept. 12, 1928
Bridge permanently opens to traffic at 6 AM, with a toll of $1 per car and 10 cents per passenger
Jun. 24, 1932
Because of the Depression and because Illinois failed to build a decent connection to the bridge, toll revenue never met projections and the Cape Girardeau Bridge Co., unable to make payments, is forced to file for receivership
Feb. 12, 1935
US District Court issues order of foreclosure against the bridge company
Apr. 8, 1935
Bridge sold at public auction to Industrial Securities, Inc., of Toledo, Ohio
Jun. 24, 1935
Sale is finalized and management of the bridge is assigned to a subsidiary company, the Ozark Trails Bridge Co.
Feb. 1938
Cape Girardeau County attempted to buy the bridge by raising money through revenue bonds, but Frank Stranahan, owner of Industrial Securities, refused to sell and the plan collapsed
Jun. 8, 1946
Cape Girardeau Special Road District successfully purchases the bridge by issuing over $2.3 million in revenue bonds
Aug. 24, 1955
Engineers from the Missouri and Illinois highway departments inspect the bridge in anticipation of taking over maintenance from the Special Road District
Jun. 1, 1957
Special Road District retires the last revenue bond
Jun. 29, 1957
Last toll collected at 5:30 AM and maintenance responsibilities assumed by Missouri and Illinois
Bridge deck rehabilitated
Dec. 13, 2003
Last car rolls across old bridge when the replacement Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge officially opens
June 21, 2004
Workers begin the demolition process, first removing the asphalt deck
Aug. 3, 2004
First four Illinois approach spans are blasted just after noon
Aug. 26, 2004
Next approach span blasted around 7 AM
Sept. 9, 2004
The third demolition phase, intended to blast only the span over the main channel, also causes the other two remaining truss spans to collapse in a domino effect.


Lost continuous through truss bridge over the Mississippi River on MO 34/IL 146 at Cape Girardeau
Cape Girardeau, Cape Girardeau County, Missouri, and Alexander County, Illinois
Replaced by Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge
Built 1928, closed to all traffic on December 13, 2003, main spans demolished on September 9, 2004
- American Bridge Co. of New York
- Harrington, Howard & Ash of Kansas City, Kansas & New York, New York
- U.G.I. Contracting Co. of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
From west to east:
Six concrete deck girder spans, each 30 ft. long
Two steel deck girder spans, for a combined length of approx. 185 ft.
Two 20-panel continuous, cantilevered Warren through truss spans, each 671.0 ft. long
Six Pennsylvania through truss spans, each approx. 311.7 ft. long
Length of largest span: 671.0 ft.
Total length: 4,744.3 ft. (0.9 mi.)
Deck width: 20.0 ft.
Vertical clearance above deck: 15.2 ft.
Approximate latitude, longitude
+37.29722, -89.51678   (decimal degrees)
37°17'50" N, 89°31'00" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
16/276921/4130815 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Cape Girardeau
Inventory numbers
MoDOT K-948R1 (Missouri Dept. of Transportation bridge number)
BH 21096 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • March 9, 2021: New photos from James McCray
  • May 13, 2020: New photos from Darren T Snow
  • June 6, 2019: New photos from Joe Sonderman
  • May 26, 2019: New photos from Joe Sonderman
  • January 5, 2019: New photo from Melissa Brand-Welch
  • January 2, 2019: New photo from Melissa Brand-Welch
  • September 4, 2017: Document added by James Baughn
  • August 7, 2012: HAER photos posted by Jason Smith
  • March 27, 2005: Posted new photos, overhauled page layout

Related Bridges 


  • HAER MO-84 - Cape Girardeau Bridge
  • Wikipedia
  • HAER MO-84 - Cape Girardeau Bridge, Spanning Mississippi River at State Highway 146, Cape Girardeau, Cape Girardeau County, MO
  • James Baughn - webmaster [at] bridgehunter [dot] com
  • Melissa Brand-Welch - melissabrandwelch [at] msn [dot] com
  • Joe Sonderman
  • Darren T Snow
  • James McCray - jamesinslocomb [at] yahoo [dot] com


Cape Girardeau Bridge
Posted April 13, 2022, by David Glastetter (djglastetter [at] gmail [dot] com)

I used to work for the engineering company that designed the bridge. When the company was cleaning out their archives, they were purging files of bridges that were obsolete or replaced. I made arrangements with my boss to take all of the plans and correspondence from the original bridge construction and donate them to Kent Library at Southeast Missouri State University where they reside to this day.



Cape Girardeau Bridge
Posted May 25, 2019, by Joe Cunningham (joe9152 [at] verizon [dot] net)

My grandfather Robert S Cunningham always said the bridge really wasn't very old because when he was a kid his father, Dr Harvey Lee Cunningham had a couple of farms over in IL and they had to take the horses over there on a ferry.

Cape Girardeau Bridge
Posted August 13, 2018, by Curtis Hudson

It's a shame beautiful pieces of history such as this one are removed, although it's nice the approach was saved to be used as a memorial.

Cape Girardeau Bridge
Posted February 12, 2012, by Joseph Putnam II (imasixfan [at] yahoo [dot] com)

The approach part left as a memorial is nicely done. Photos taken June 10, 2011.

Cape Girardeau Bridge
Posted July 9, 2010, by James Simmons

Fascinating pictorial...That was a gorgeous bridge.

Cape Girardeau Bridge
Posted February 20, 2010, by Madison

There's a video of the implosion here:


Cape Girardeau Bridge
Posted February 4, 2008, by George B. Boettcher

I have always gone under the bridge on the Illinois side to go 4 wheelin' and dirt bikin'. I have been known a time or two to get stuck down there. I have built bonfires and have tailgate parties with a few friends. I would have to say...most of memories of back home were under that bridge. I'm glad I was a part of it.

Cape Girardeau Bridge
Posted October 21, 2007, by Bryan G. (bg7386 [at] gmail [dot] com)

I remember crossing this when I was younger (probably in the mid 1990s). This bridge was a louder bridge to cross than most, and I looked out of the car to see why: large portions of the floor were metal grates, through which you could see the waters below.

After that, I never really cared to cross the bridge. At least the other ones I had crossed didn't have water visible directly underneath the car.

Cape Girardeau Bridge
Posted August 27, 2007, by Tom (memmaf [at] aim [dot] com)

That old bridge was always scary to cross. Way too narrow. Even as a teenager, I was having a hard time keeping the car within the lane without driving off the side or hitting someone head on. Know a few people killed crossing the bridge. But, it was historical. Another piece of Cape Girardeau history sorry to see go. They could have kept it as a one-way bridge.

Cape Girardeau Bridge
Posted September 17, 2006, by Robert Boettcher (robertboettcher [at] hotmail [dot] com)

That was 1 old Bridge.

One early memory, as a kid,

was the thrill of going fast,

with a friend;"Doc", driving his

"souped-up" 71 El Cameno SS, from

the MO. side up to the first ramp

so as to actually go airbourn!

...At least for a few secounds.


He had to get a runup to it.


Well, it was fun.