Construction Starts on New Mississippi River Bridge Between Ill., Mo.

Work has begun on a new bridge over the Mississippi River between Illinois and Missouri.

The $307.1 million project is jointly owned by the two states’ departments of transportation.

The new bridge will replace the aging Chester Bridge that carries Illinois 150 and Missouri 51 over the river between Chester, Illinois, and Perryville, Missouri.

IDOT’s portion costs about $143.2 million, with MoDOT picking up the rest. MoDOT, which will oversee the project, chose the Ames Team as the design-build contractor, which consists of Ames Construction Inc. and Parsons Transportation Group.

“This major river bridge is vital to agricultural traffic, area industries and travelers,” said Missouri Department of Transportation Project Director Brian Okenfuss after awarding the contract. “While the current bridge is safe, it is in poor condition. The new Chester Bridge will reduce the number of flood-related closures and better serve today’s traffic.”

chester bridge over Mississippi River between Illinois Missouri from Illinois sideA view of the Chester Bridge from the Illinois side.Earthcam/MoDOTThe new span, to be called the Don Welge Memorial Bridge, will be built upstream from the current bridge as a three-tower, cable-stayed structure. It will have two 12-foot lanes with 10-foot shoulders and have fewer piers in the river. It will be twice as wide as the current bridge, which was built in 1942 and reconstructed in 1944 after a storm destroyed the main span.

About 7,000 vehicles use the Chester Bridge each day, and they will continue to do so during construction of the new bridge. The new bridge is scheduled to be completed in December 2026. It will be named in honor of former Chester resident and longtime bridge advocate Don Welge.

The first part of construction involves excavating the riverbank on the Missouri side, building an embankment for the new road, fill, utility work, and construction of a temporary access road over the levee.  

The current bridge system consists of the Chester Bridge and Horse Island Chute bridge, both of which will be replaced with a “durable 100-year, low maintenance structure,” according to MoDOT.

This is the second bridge construction project over the river between Illinois and Missouri to start this year. Work began in March on the $500 million Chain of Rocks Bridge project to carry I-70 between St. Louis and Madison County, Illinois. Construction on this bridge is also expected to conclude at the end of 2026 at a cost of about $500 million.