The announcement of a completion date for the westbound U.S. 54/63 bridge near Jefferson City has some Callaway County residents ecstatic.
"I'm pretty excited," said Erik Anderson, a commuter who lives in Holts Summit. "It frees up a lot of time when you don't have an hour-and-a-half commute each day. Also, once it's done we don't have to worry about the bridge collapsing, which is a bonus."
Missouri Department of Transportation officials announced Wednesday the Missouri River bridge will be fully operational by Nov. 14, after being closed for improvements since May 1. The original projected completion date was in August.
Anderson said his commute tripled in time after construction on the bridge began. Construction paired with summer travelers provided a recipe for disaster, he said.
"It was a pain during the summer because the traffic was so backed up," he said. "I'd leave at 7:15, and traffic would be backed up from the bridge to the winery. Before construction, it took me 15 minutes to get to work. During (construction), it would take me 45 minutes."
Rick Hess, city administrator for Holts Summit, said city officials and residents are cautiously optimistic concerning the opening of the bridge.
"We are so excited," he said. "I'm just hoping they don't find something between now and then. The bridge opening is going to positively affect anybody living in Holts Summit."
Sgt. Scott White with the Missouri Highway Patrol said backed-up traffic has become the norm for commuters entering and leaving the city.
"Several times, I saw it backed up all the way to Summit Drive in Holts Summit," he said. "It also caused congestion on the 63."
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The major backups occasionally resulted in motorists making unplanned stops in Holts Summit, Hess said. However, the stops don't seem to have had a positive or negative affect concerning generating revenue.
"There was a major traffic backup Labor Day weekend, and people ended up stopping in Holts Summit for different things," he added. "From that perspective, occasionally it brought some revenue dollars, but I don't think it affects the businesses one way or another."
Sometimes, due to traffic accidents, the traffic flow would come to a halt, Anderson said.
"One night, I left work at 5 and didn't get home until 6:30," he said. "I was stuck in Jefferson City for more than an hour because of an accident on the bridge."
Commuters planning for heavy traffic also ate into hours of productivity at work, Hess said.
"I have a lot of meetings in Jefferson City," he said. "I have to assume there will be a tie up due to traffic and leave early. If there isn't, I end up waiting 30 minutes and wasting part of my day for planning accordingly."
Using one bridge for eastbound and westbound traffic caused another challenge for law enforcement officials, White said.
"Whenever there was a crash on the bridge, it was hard to get to," he said. "It's hard to get an ambulance on there if there was an injury. There really wasn't any room."
Freeing up the flow of traffic will hopefully reduce accidents, White said.
"Any time traffic flows smoother, it makes the highway safer," he said. "Once this is open, I think it will help quite a bit. It's been a struggle for a lot of the commuting public. I think everyone's looking forward to it opening back up."