Don Welge Memorial Bridge construction underway in Chester

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Chicago Construction News staff writer

The Illinois Department of Transportation has announced the start of construction of the new Don Welge Memorial Bridge, a project partially funded by the Rebuild Illinois capital program.

Check out the construction progress on the live project cam.

The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission selected The Ames Team as the design-build contractor to replace the bridge that spans the Mississippi River, connecting the cities of Perryville, Missouri and Chester, Illinois via Missouri Route 51/Illinois Route 150.

“This major river bridge is vital to agricultural traffic, area industries and travelers,” said Missouri Department of Transportation Project Director Brian Okenfuss. “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.”

The bridge will be constructed upstream from the existing structure and will be twice as wide.

“Reviewing proposals from potential design-build teams was a rigorous process, as all the teams under consideration have previously delivered great projects,” Okenfuss said.

The selected contractor team had to meet or exceed several goals including: replacing both structures (Chester Bridge and Horse Island Chute bridge) within the project budget using durable 100-year, low maintenance structure(s); providing a safe and reliable transportation solution for all modes of transportation; completing the project no later than Dec. 1, 2026 with the least impacts to all modes of transportation; and delivering the project safely while utilizing a diverse workforce.

The proposal from The Ames Team—comprised of Ames Construction Inc. and Parsons Transportation Group—was deemed to be of the apparent best value to taxpayers based on the project goals. The team will construct a three-tower, cable-stayed bridge, and completion is anticipated by the end of 2026. The new bridge will cost approximately $284 million to complete.

“We are excited to begin moving forward with The Ames Team to complete the Chester Bridge replacement project,” Okenfuss added.

The current truss bridge was originally constructed in 1942. Approximately 7,000 vehicles use the bridge daily.

“My administration is proud to be transforming our state’s infrastructure, and I’ve made it my mission to improve bridges, railways, roads, bike paths, and more to better serve our communities,” said Gov. JB Pritzker. “By investing in the Don Welge Memorial Bridge through our landmark Rebuild Illinois capital plan, we’re ensuring innovation, safety, and reliability for thousands of drivers every day.”

The project has received $307.1 million from Illinois and Missouri, to replace the aging Chester Bridge that carries Illinois 150 and Missouri 51 over the Mississippi River from Randolph County to Perry County, Mo.

The project, which will be overseen by MoDOT and constructed using a design-build approach, will be completed in December 2026. The new bridge will be named in honor of former Chester resident and longtime bridge advocate Don Welge.

“The new Chester bridge is another investment in safety, mobility and improved quality of life via Rebuild Illinois,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman. “We are proud of the partnership with Missouri to replace and upgrade another of our border bridges, which are essential to the economy and livelihood of the entire Midwest.”

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