ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) - A major milestone has been reached on the new Mississippi River Bridge project.
The twin concrete towers which will support the bridge deck below are finished.
It is considered the most difficult part of the project.
"The biggest challenge is usually the foundation work, the stuff that happens 100 feet below the surface because you never know what you are going to find, and we got through that," said Greg Horn, project director for MoDOT.
To celebrate the occasion, MoDOT took a small group of officials on an excursion aboard the Becky Thatcher riverboat for a closer look at the giant towers, which at 400 feet tall above the surface of the water are almost two-thirds the height of the Arch.
As they approached the towers, the boat's horn was blown, signaling workers on the towers to raise the flags at the top.
"This is a milestone for the whole region," said East Carondelet, Il., mayor Herb Simmons. "This is something I can tell my 19 grandchildren about, that I was out here the day they did this."
Now that the towers are complete, work will begin stringing the 600 miles of cable that will hold up deck.
"Probably within a week we are going to start the cables. From the center you will start to see the cables coming closer to the piers. They will be building a piece on one side and a piece on the other side, they will start on both piers at the same time, and then about a year they will be meeting in the middle," Horn said.
When the project is complete, Interstate 70 will move from crossing the river over the Poplar Street Bridge to the new bridge.
But while the new Mississippi River Bridge will bring relief, it may also come to symbolize a new era of American austerity.
"We saw this bridge originally go from eight lanes to four lanes," said Len Toenjes, president of the Associated General Contractors of St. Louis.
"I think maybe that is a situation we have to look for in the future as we are planning for future projects so we need to celebrate this one," he said.
Construction began in March 2010, and is expected to be finished in early 2014.