ST. CHARLES • Twenty-five pounds of explosives dropped 1.5 million pounds of the obsolete westbound Blanchette Bridge into the Missouri River on Sunday as Interstate 70 traffic was held at a safe distance for about an hour.
It went as planned for demolition of the span to make way for a replacement in a $63 million project. For nearly a year, what had been five lanes of traffic each way are being squeezed into three on the unaffected eastbound structure, with a lowered speed limit.
Vehicles were held back almost a half hour after the blast so workers could clear any pieces that might have ended up on the adjacent bridge still in use. The contractor has 48 hours to remove debris from the water below.
A second blast, tentatively set for the first week in December, will bring down the rest of the westbound span.
Sunday’s work was accomplished on a particularly nice November day, with a partly sunny sky and a temperature in the mid-40s.
Spectator Len Huddleston, 69, a retired banker, remembers when the bridge destroyed Sunday was the only one carrying I-70. “I sat in many a traffic jam,” he recalled. “As this area grew up, traffic got worse and worse and worse. That’s why they built that other bridge.”
Moments after the almost anti-climactic blast, Huddleston, and many others on a nearby hill, were silent.
“That was it?” he asked. But he said he was still glad he came, explaining: “I don’t get to see too many bridges blow up.”
About an hour before the event, Tom Evers, area engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation, said: “It’s very cool to blow things up, I must admit.” He added, “I am excited about putting it back together, but this is definitely a cool event.”
Brett Snyder, 17, of St. Peters, carried a chair, popcorn and soda to the end of a dike just downriver from the bridge. “It’s Sunday, I’ve got nothing else better to do,” he explained.
John Young, 61, was nearby with a camera and a tripod. But the blast was close to the bank, and the Ameristar Casino was in the way of a clear shot.
“I want to see the sequence of the explosion and see this stuff fall down,” he said.
Next month’s explosion is expected to offer a better view.