Nova (1974–…): Season 24, Episode 16 - Super Bridge - full transcript

The problems and challenges in building a new highway bridge, of innovative cable-stayed design, across the mighty Mississippi River at Alton, Illinois.

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TONIGHT ON NOVA...

THE MISSISSIPPI GETS
A STATE-OF-THE-ART BRIDGE.

Man:
NOBODY HAD EVER DONE THIS
BEFORE ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD.

BE ON SITE
AS WE DIVE AND DRAG...

POUND AND POUR...

AROUND THE CLOCK...

AGAINST THE ELEMENTS.

LATELY OUR LUCK'S BEEN
RUNNING PRETTY SOUR.

Man:
YOU CAN'T CONTROL THE WEATHER.

IT'S OUT OF CONTROL.

MAKE WAY FOR THE BRIDGE
OF THE FUTURE...



A NOVA TWO-HOUR SPECIAL:

[Captioning sponsored
by PARK FOUNDATION

THE CORPORATION
FOR PUBLIC BROADCASTING

MAJOR FUNDING FOR NOVA IS
PROVIDED BY THE PARK FOUNDATION

DEDICATED TO EDUCATION
AND QUALITY TELEVISION.

Narrator:
IT'S MIDSUMMER

AND THE RIVER FLOWS THROUGH
THE DAY IN A DREAMLIKE TRANCE.

THE INDIANS CALLED IT
MISSISSIPPI...

THE "FATHER OF WATERS."

TO MARK TWAIN, IT WAS
A SYMBOL OF ETERNITY.

FOR CENTURIES

THE MISSISSIPPI HAS SERVED
AS A GREAT FLOWING HIGHWAY

FOR PEOPLE AND WILDLIFE ALIKE.

ALONG ITS BANKS ARE HUNDREDS
OF TOWNS LIKE ALTON, ILLINOIS



THAT SPRANG UP
IN THE 19th CENTURY.

AFTER EUROPEAN SETTLERS PUSHED
OUT THE LOCAL INDIAN TRIBES

THEY BEGAN TO BUILD...

AND BUILD.

YOU CAN STILL FIND THE OLD ALTON
ALMOST EVERYWHERE YOU LOOK

AND THE FAMILIES
WHO BOUGHT A PIECE OF IT.

FOR THEM, THE PAST IS ONE OF
ALTON'S BIGGEST ATTRACTIONS.

BUT LIKE SO MANY OLD RIVER TOWNS

ALTON HAS STRUGGLED
TO MAKE ENDS MEET.

FOR MANY PEOPLE HERE, THE FUTURE
COUNTS MORE THAN THE PAST.

THEY KNOW THAT WHATEVER
THE GUIDEBOOKS SAY

ALTON DOESN'T LIVE OFF
THE RIVER TRADE ANYMORE

AND THE RIVER CAN BE AS MUCH
A BARRIER AS A THOROUGHFARE...

A BARRIER THAT HAS TO BE CROSSED
TO KEEP THE TOWN ALIVE.

FOR NEARLY 70 YEARS

THE OLD CLARK BRIDGE HAS BEEN
THE MOST DIRECT ROUTE

FROM ALTON TO ST. LOUIS, THE
COMMERCIAL CENTER OF THE REGION.

BUT THE BRIDGE WAS BUILT IN
THE DAYS OF THE MODEL "A" FORD.

IT CARRIES 20,000 CARS AND
TRUCKS A DAY IN JUST TWO LANES.

IT GROANS UNDER THE WEIGHT
OF ITS BURDEN.

IT SQUEEZES THE FLOW
OF TRAFFIC WITHOUT MERCY

UNTIL IT SLOWS TO A CRAWL.

AND AS THE BRIDGE AGES

AND BECOMES LESS AND LESS FIT
FOR THE JOB IT WAS MEANT TO DO

ALTON BEGINS TO FEAR

THAT ITS ECONOMIC PROSPECTS
ARE BEING SQUEEZED AS WELL.

BY THE LATE 1980s, THE TOWN
AND THE STATE GOVERNMENTS

OF ILLINOIS AND MISSOURI
ARE ALL IN AGREEMENT:

THEY AND THE RIVER NEED
A NEW BRIDGE AT ALTON.

OVER THE NEXT FOUR YEARS

JOE LEACH WILL SUPERVISE
A TEAM OF SPECIALISTS

WHO WILL ENSURE
THE QUALITY OF THE NEW BRIDGE.

A CONSULTING ENGINEER,
LEACH HAS BEEN HIRED BY ILLINOIS

TO CHECK EVERY DETAIL
OF CONSTRUCTION.

NOTHING CAN BE
TAKEN FOR GRANTED.

AT STAKE WILL BE LEACH'S
REPUTATION, HIS CAREER

AND MOST IMPORTANTLY,
THE PUBLIC'S SAFETY.

Man:
WE HAVE A CONTRACT

WITH THE ILLINOIS
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

BUT WE HAVE A BIGGER CONTRACT,
AND THAT CONTRACT IS WITH THE...

ALL THE TAXPAYERS
IN THE STATE OF ILLINOIS

AND THE GENERAL PUBLIC
THAT WILL USE THIS STRUCTURE

BECAUSE WHEN WE WALK
AWAY FROM HERE

WE WANT THE GENERAL
PUBLIC TO BELIEVE

AS THEY SHOULD, RIGHTFULLY SO

THAT THIS...
THIS STRUCTURE IS SOUND.

YOU CAN USE IT,
AND YOU CAN USE IT SAFELY.

Narrator:
EVERY TIME A BRIDGE CROSSES
A RIVER

IT HAS TO SOLVE
A UNIQUE SET OF PROBLEMS

IN SAFETY, AESTHETICS AND COST.

CHANGES IN TECHNOLOGY
HAVE ALWAYS LED ENGINEERS

TO NEW DESIGNS, BUT
IT'S NEVER AN EASY CHOICE.

ONE POSSIBILITY FOR ALTON IS
A STRUCTURE CALLED A TRUSS.

IT'S EXTREMELY STRONG, BUT
IT USES SO MUCH STRUCTURAL STEEL

THAT IT'S VERY EXPENSIVE
TO BUILD AND MAINTAIN

LIKE THIS 45-YEAR-OLD
ST. LOUIS BRIDGE.

ANOTHER OPTION IS CALLED
A TIED ARCH

BECAUSE THE ROAD DECK TIES THE
TWO ENDS OF THE ARCH TOGETHER

LIKE THE STRING OF A BOW.

THIS IS THE JEFFERSON BARRACKS
BRIDGE, ALSO IN ST. LOUIS.

BUT A TIED ARCH REQUIRES

THE BUILDING OF
TEMPORARY SUPPORTS IN THE RIVER

THAT WOULD DANGEROUSLY NARROW
THE SHIPPING CHANNEL

DURING CONSTRUCTION.

A THIRD POSSIBILITY IS
A CLASSIC SUSPENSION BRIDGE

BUT GIVEN ITS HIGH COST

IT ONLY MAKES SENSE
FOR EXTREMELY LONG SPANS

LIKE THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE
IN SAN FRANCISCO.

THERE IS, HOWEVER

A CLOSE RELATIVE
OF THE SUSPENSION BRIDGE

THAT COMBINES STRENGTH
AND RELATIVELY LOW COST.

IT'S CALLED A CABLE-STAYED SPAN

AND SOME SAY
IT'S THE WAVE OF THE FUTURE.

Man:
THE MODERN CABLE-STAY BRIDGE
STARTED AFTER WORLD WAR II

IN EUROPE, IN GERMANY PRIMARILY,
AND SOME IN FRANCE

BUT PRIMARILY GERMANY
BECAUSE THEY HAD...

A NUMBER OF THEIR BRIDGES HAD
BEEN DESTROYED DURING THE WAR

THEIR STEEL MILLS
HAD BEEN DESTROYED

EVEN THEIR CONCRETE...

ABILITY FOR MATERIALS
WERE NOT THERE.

THE ENGINEERS
HAD TO DEVELOP A WAY

IN WHICH THEY
COULD DESIGN A BRIDGE

WITH THE LEAST AMOUNT OF
MATERIALS TO SPAN LONG DISTANCES

AND TO BE
AS ECONOMICAL AS POSSIBLE.

Narrator:
THE DESIGNERS
OF THE NEW CLARK BRIDGE BEGIN

WITH A SINGLE PAIR OF TOWERS

WHICH WILL SUPPORT
THE WHOLE MAIN SPAN.

ORDINARILY, THE CABLE STAYS
WOULD BE PLACED

IN A SINGLE PLANE, LIKE THIS

BUT THE ILLINOIS
TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT

WANTS THE ROAD DECK SUPPORTED
AT BOTH OUTSIDE EDGES

NOT ONLY FOR MAXIMUM STABILITY
BUT ALSO FOR MINIMUM COST

BECAUSE A WELL-SUPPORTED DECK
CAN BE LIGHTER USING LESS STEEL.

IT'S AN INNOVATIVE
AND COST-CUTTING DESIGN

THAT HAS NEVER BEEN ATTEMPTED
QUITE LIKE THIS

ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD.

500 MILES TO THE SOUTH,
IN VICKSBURG, MISSISSIPPI

THE DESIGN WILL MEET
ONE OF ITS FIRST REAL TESTS.

THE ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS
HAS BUILT AN EXACT MODEL

OF THE MISSISSIPPI
WHERE IT FLOWS PAST ALTON

BETWEEN THE OLD BRIDGE
AND THE SITE OF THE NEW BRIDGE.

EVEN THE TRICKY CURRENTS AND
EDDIES ARE PERFECTLY REPRODUCED.

THE POINT IS TO SEE
HOW THE RIVER, THE OLD BRIDGE

AND THE NEW BRIDGE
WILL INTERACT.

IN THEIR DESIGN
FOR THE NEW BRIDGE

THE ENGINEERS HAVE PUT
ONE TOWER, OR PIER

RIGHT AT THE EDGE
OF THE SHIPPING CHANNEL

AND THE OTHER PIER
AS CLOSE AS POSSIBLE

FOR THE SHORTEST,
AND THUS CHEAPEST, MAIN SPAN.

OKAY, THIS IS
THE ORIGINAL LOCATION

OF THE ILLINOIS PIER
OF THE CLARK BRIDGE.

THE MISSOURI PIER LOCATION
WAS FIXED

AND THE NAVIGATION...

THE NAVIGATION SPAN
WAS GOING TO BE 687 FEET.

Narrator:
WITH THE HELP
OF A LITTLE CONFETTI

THE FIRST PROBLEM
WITH THE ILLINOIS PIER

WAS QUICKLY REVEALED.

Pokrefke:
AS THE FLOW MOVES DOWNSTREAM

THE CONFETTI ON THE SURFACE
ACTUALLY HAS TO SEPARATE

AND GO AROUND THE PIER ITSELF.

AND NAVIGATION
WOULD NOT WANT TO BE

AROUND ALL THAT TURBULENCE
RIGHT AROUND THAT PIER.

Narrator:
TOO MUCH TURBULENCE
MIGHT SPELL DISASTER

FOR THE BARGES TRAVELING
UP AND DOWN THE RIVER.

EVEN WORSE IS
THE POWERFUL CROSSCURRENT

THAT WILL TRY TO FORCE
THE BARGES INTO THE PIER.

TOGETHER,
THE TURBULENCE AND CURRENT

WILL MAKE IT VERY DANGEROUS

TO GET PAST BOTH THE NEW AND
OLD BRIDGE DURING CONSTRUCTION.

Pokrefke:
AFTER WE EVALUATED
THE INITIAL SPACING OF 687 FEET

AS IT WAS ORIGINALLY DESIGNED

WE LOOKED AT EXTENDING
THE SPACING TO 850 FEET

FROM THE MISSOURI PIER
TO THE ILLINOIS PIER.

ONE OF THE CONCERNS WITH THIS IS
THE LONGER YOU MAKE THIS SPACING

THE MORE EXPENSIVE
YOU MAKE THE BRIDGE.

EVENTUALLY WE LOOKED
AT DIFFERENT ALTERNATIVES

AND THE FINAL RESOLUTION
WE CAME UP WITH

WAS TO MOVE THE PIER SO
IT LINED UP WITH THE TRAIL DIKE

THAT THE CORPS OF ENGINEERS
WAS GOING TO BUILD.

Narrator:
THIS DIKE WILL RUN
FROM THE OLD BRIDGE TO THE NEW

TO HELP CONTROL THE CURRENT.

TOGETHER, THE DIKE
AND PIER'S NEW LOCATION

WILL MAKE THE CHANNEL SAFE FOR
THE BARGES PASSING THROUGH IT.

WHEN ALL THE ELEMENTS
OF THE BRIDGE

ARE ANALYZED, TESTED
AND COSTED OUT

DETAILED DRAWINGS
OF EACH SECTION ARE MADE.

BUT FOR THE ENGINEERS WHO HAVE
SPENT FIVE YEARS ON THE PROJECT

THE ULTIMATE SATISFACTION

IS THE QUIET ELEGANCE
OF THE FINAL DESIGN.

Figg:
WE DESIGN OUR CABLE-STAY BRIDGES
TO MATCH THE ENVIRONMENT

NOT JUST THE SPAN LENGTH
OR VERTICAL CLEARANCE

BUT WHERE IS IT GOING TO SIT?

HOW IS IT GOING TO LOOK?

AND WE WANT IT TO LOOK LIKE,
AS BEST WE CAN, A SCULPTURE...

A PIECE OF SCULPTURE,
IF WE CAN DO IT.

IT'S IMPORTANT TO US THAT THE
BRIDGE BE A SYMBOL OF THE AREA.

IN FACT, WE LOOK
AT SOME OF OUR DESIGNS

AS TRULY BEING
SIGNATURE BRIDGES.

THEY'RE BRIDGES THAT ARE
FOCAL POINTS OF THE COMMUNITY.

Narrator:
BY THE SUMMER,
THE TIME OF PLANNING IS OVER

AND THE GRITTY REALITY OF
CONSTRUCTION IS ABOUT TO BEGIN.

THE PROJECT TEAM
WILL HAVE 3½ YEARS

AND $90 MILLION
TO COMPLETE THE TASK.

FOR THESE CONSTRUCTION WORKERS

THE JOB WILL BE AS TOUGH
AS ANY THEY'VE SEEN.

THEY'LL WORK
IN ALL KINDS OF WEATHER

AND EVEN PUT
THEIR LIVES ON THE LINE.

THEIR AVERAGE EXPERIENCE
IS 15 YEARS.

THEIR AVERAGE SALARY
IS $21 AN HOUR.

AS FOR THEIR ATTITUDE

IT'S SIMPLY GET THE JOB DONE
AND GET IT DONE RIGHT

THEN MOVE ON TO THE NEXT JOB.

I'M THINKING, BRING...

Narrator:
FOR THE GENERAL CONTRACTORS

HIRED BY THE ILLINOIS
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

THE PRESSURE WILL BE
EVEN MORE INTENSE.

IN CONSTRUCTION, ABOVE ALL
OTHER BUSINESSES, TIME IS MONEY.

SOME OF THE CONTRACTORS

HAVE EVEN STAKED
THEIR COMPANIES' FUTURE

ON FINISHING THE JOB ON TIME.

LIKE BILL WEBB,
THEY'VE ALL MADE FIXED BIDS

WHICH MEANS THEY'LL ALL HAVE
TO PAY FOR MISTAKES AND DELAYS

OUT OF THEIR OWN POCKETS.

I'VE MADE THIS STATEMENT
SEVERAL TIMES BEFORE.

IT'S ABOUT, UH, ONE STEP AWAY

FROM GOING TO LAS VEGAS
AND ROLLING DICE.

IT'S A LITTLE BIT... A LITTLE
BIT LESS RISKY THAN THAT, MAYBE.

Narrator:
SUPERVISING THE CONTRACTORS
IS EARL DOERR

THE PROJECT MANAGER,
OR RESIDENT ENGINEER

FOR THE ILLINOIS
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION.

A FARMER-TURNED-ENGINEER

DOERR STILL LIVES
NEAR THE FAMILY FARM

40 MILES DOWNRIVER FROM ALTON.

DOERR IS AS GOOD-NATURED
AS THEY COME

BUT HE'S ALSO DETERMINED
TO KEEP THE CONTRACTORS IN LINE.

I DON'T KNOW IF YOU COULD SAY

WE'RE DISTRUSTFUL
OR TRUSTFUL OF CONTRACTORS

BUT, UH, WE DO HAVE
TO WATCH ALL THE OPERATIONS

TO MAKE SURE THAT
THEY'RE DONE PROPERLY

AND THAT'S NOT TO SAY THEY
WERE DONE WRONG INTENTIONALLY.

UH, WE JUST WANT
TO ASSURE OURSELVES

THAT ALL THE PIECES FALL
INTO PLACE IN A PROPER FASHION

AND THAT ALL THE MATERIAL
IS GOOD MATERIAL.

Narrator:
THERE'S A SEPARATE CONTRACTOR
FOR EACH SECTION OF THE BRIDGE:

THE ILLINOIS
HIGHWAY APPROACH...

THE MISSOURI APPROACH...

THE CABLE-STAYED MAIN SPAN

AND, UNDERNEATH THAT,
THE SIX MAIN SPAN FOUNDATIONS.

GET HER TURNED,
THEN WE'LL SHOOT IT AGAIN.

Narrator:
AS CONSTRUCTION FINALLY BEGINS

JOE LEACH OVERSEES THE PLACEMENT
OF A HUGE STEEL FRAME

WHICH WILL REST
ON THE RIVER BOTTOM.

THE ANCHORING OF THE FRAME
IS THE FIRST STEP

IN THE CONSTRUCTION OF
THE MAIN SPAN FOUNDATIONS.

Leach:
WE DON'T NECESSARILY
BUILD THIS THING

IN A PROGRESSION
FROM ONE BANK TO THE OTHER.

FOR EXAMPLE, IN THIS PROJECT

WE'RE STARTING
IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RIVER.

IN STARTING THERE

YOU HAVE TO MAKE SURE THAT
EVERYTHING IS IN ALIGNMENT

SO THAT EVERYTHING LATER
WILL ATTACH TO IT PROPERLY

SO THAT IT WILL FIT.

TO HOLD IT HERE, TO WHERE WE
CAN GET THAT OTHER CRANE GOING.

Leach:
THE RIVER HERE IS
4,000 FEET WIDE...

MAYBE NOT QUITE THAT FAR...

AND WE'RE TRYING TO GET
EVERYTHING LOCATED

TO WITHIN AN EIGHTH OF AN INCH.

THE CLOSER YOU ARE
TO, SHALL WE SAY, PERFECTION

THE BETTER THE END PRODUCT.

Narrator:
MAKING SURE EACH FRAME
IS ALIGNED PERFECTLY

REQUIRES PRECISE MEASUREMENT
AND CONSTANT MANEUVERING.

LET'S GET THIS THING
IN ALIGNMENT FIRST, OKAY?

Narrator:
AS THE BARGE WITH THE FRAME
HOLDS POSITION

ONE-THIRD OF A MILE
OUT IN THE RIVER

A SURVEYOR SETS UP HIS
EQUIPMENT ON THE SHORE

AT A GEODETIC MARKER.

FROM THIS FIXED
POINT OF REFERENCE

THE SURVEYOR WILL
SHOOT A LASER BEAM

AT THIS MIRROR,
MOUNTED ON THE FOUNDATION FRAME.

THE FRAME IS IN POSITION

OVER THE PLACE WHERE ONE
OF THE FOUNDATION PIERS WILL BE.

BY MEASURING THE TIME IT TAKES

FOR THE REFLECTED LIGHT
TO RETURN TO THE SHORE

AND THE ANGLE
AT WHICH IT TRAVELS

THE SURVEYOR CAN CALCULATE
THE FRAME'S PRECISE POSITION.

BUT THE POWERFUL CURRENT
MAKES IT HARD

TO KEEP THE BARGE FROM
DRIFTING OUT OF POSITION.

MY BOAT'S GOT ME NOW,
I'M GOING UPSTREAM.

I'M HOLDING MYSELF DOWNSTREAM.

HOW ARE WE ON ALIGNMENT?

HOLD WHAT YOU GOT!

HOLD YOURS, ROBIN.

Surveyor:
The Missouri side needs
to go downstream two-tenths.

Illinois needs to go
upstream two-tenths.

TWO MORE TENTHS
ON THE UPSTREAM.

LITTLE MORE, ROBIN!

SLACK OFF
A LITTLE BIT, T.J.!

Narrator:
WHEN THE FRAME IS
IN THE RIGHT PLACE

150-FOOT-LONG STEEL SHAFTS,
CALLED PILES

ARE LOWERED THROUGH THE CORNERS.

JUST BOOM HIM UP.

Narrator:
WHEN THE PILE HITS THE BOTTOM

IT WILL SINK INTO THE MUD
A FEW FEET.

THEN IT'LL BE PUSHED
ANOTHER 60 FEET DOWN.

WHEN ALL FOUR PILES
ARE DRIVEN IN

THE FRAME WILL SLIDE
INTO THE WATER.

ONCE THE FRAME IS IN PLACE

IT'S ENCLOSED WITH
A TONGUE-AND-GROOVE STEEL WALL

SLOWLY, STEP BY STEP,
ONE NARROW PANEL AT A TIME.

THE FINISHED BOX
IS CALLED A COFFERDAM.

MASSIVE STEEL PILINGS
ARE DRIVEN

THROUGH THE BOTTOM
OF THE COFFERDAM

THROUGH 80 FEET
OF MUD AND GRAVEL

UNTIL THE PILINGS HIT BEDROCK.

THEN EIGHT FEET OF CONCRETE
IS POURED IN TO SEAL THE BOTTOM.

WITH THE COFFERDAM
HOLDING BACK THE RIVER

IT CAN NOW BE PUMPED
FREE OF WATER

ENABLING THE CREW TO WORK
BENEATH THE SURFACE.

THE CREW'S FIRST TASK
IS THE CONSTRUCTION

OF AN ELABORATE GRID
OF REINFORCING STEEL.

THE GRID WILL SERVE
AS THE SKELETON

FOR THE FINISHED
CONCRETE FOUNDATION.

Leach:
MOST OF THE REINFORCEMENT
FOR THIS PROJECT

WAS A MASSIVE JIGSAW PUZZLE.

THE IMPORTANCE
OF THIS REINFORCEMENT

ALL GETS BACK TO THE FACT

THAT WE DO NOT ALLOW CONCRETE
TO TAKE ANY TENSION.

THAT'LL TAKE
A MINUTE AMOUNT OF TENSION

BUT CONCRETE IS...

TO LOOK AT CONCRETE IS
LIKE A PIECE OF CHALK.

IT'S VERY BRITTLE

AND IT'S VERY EASY TO SNAP

AND WHERE IT STARTS
TO BREAK OR SNAP

IS WHERE WE HAVE TO HAVE
THIS REINFORCEMENT IN THERE

TO TAKE THAT TENSION.

Narrator:
EACH REINFORCING BAR,
EACH LEVEL OF THE GRID

HAS BEEN CAREFULLY DESIGNED
BY THE ENGINEERS

FOR MAXIMUM STRENGTH.

WHEN THE REINFORCING STEEL
IS BURIED IN CONCRETE

THE FINISHED FOUNDATION,
CALLED A FOOTING

WILL HAVE TO CARRY THE WEIGHT

OF HUNDREDS
OF THOUSANDS OF TONS.

IT'S SHORTLY AFTER DAWN
ON A CHILLY DECEMBER MORNING

WHEN THE FIRST
CONCRETE POUR BEGINS.

FOR THE NEXT 15 HOURS

TRUCKS WILL ARRIVE
EVERY SEVEN MINUTES...

130 LOADS OF CONCRETE IN ALL.

THE CONCRETE ARRIVES
ALREADY PREPARED.

A SAMPLE FROM EACH LOAD IS
TESTED JUST BEFORE IT'S POURED

TO MAKE SURE IT HAS
THE RIGHT CONSISTENCY.

TOO MUCH WATER WILL WEAKEN IT;

TOO LITTLE WILL CREATE
AIR POCKETS WHEN IT HARDENS

REDUCING ITS STRENGTH.

AFTER TESTING, ALL THE CONCRETE
NEEDED FOR THIS FOOTING...

ABOUT 2,000 TONS OF IT...

IS PUMPED THROUGH A LONG PIPE TO
THE CREW IN THE COFFERDAM BELOW.

THE POUR CANNOT BE STOPPED
ONCE IT BEGINS.

IT HAS TO BE CONTINUOUS

TO ENSURE THAT
THE CONCRETE SETS PROPERLY.

12 FEET BELOW THESE MEN

THE REINFORCING IS
SO TIGHTLY PLACED

THAT THE CONCRETE WON'T FLOW

WITHOUT HELP FROM
ELECTRIC VIBRATORS.

BUT IT ISN'T EASY TO KEEP YOUR
BALANCE ON THE SLIPPERY STEEL.

Man:
SOMETIMES, IT'S LIKE
DOWN IN THAT HOLE

A GUY COULD MAKE
A WRONG MOVE DOWN THERE

AND YOU'D BE SINGING SOPRANO
THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.

SO YOU NEVER KNOW
WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN

ON A CONSTRUCTION JOB, YOU KNOW.

THINGS WILL BE GOING ALONG GOOD

AND ALL AT ONCE
EVERYTHING STARTS GOING BAD.

Narrator:
BUT TODAY, THE WORK
HAS GONE SMOOTHLY

AND THERE'S NOTHING MORE SERIOUS
THAN THE USUAL ACHES AND PAINS.

Doerr:
THE POUR IS
ESSENTIALLY COMPLETE.

WE'VE PROBABLY GOT
ANOTHER HALF HOUR TO GO YET.

THE MEN HAVE DONE
THEIR JOBS WELL TODAY

AND YOU HAVE TO CONSIDER

THEY'VE BEEN HERE
SINCE 7:00 THIS MORNING

AND IT'S NOW
GETTING CLOSE TO 10:00.

THE SAME CREW HAS
BEEN AT IT ALL DAY.

YOU CAN IMAGINE THEIR ARMS
AND LEGS ARE PRETTY TIRED.

HELLO, THERE'S A JOB, BUDDY.

THAT WAS A DAY'S WORK.

Narrator:
FINALLY, AFTER MONTHS OF
THE MOST PAINSTAKING EFFORT

THE MAIN SPAN FOUNDATIONS
RISE OUT OF THE WATER

WITHIN JUST ONE-EIGHTH OF AN
INCH OF THEIR PLANNED POSITIONS.

Leach:
ALL OF THESE HIDDEN THINGS AND
THAT WHICH WAS BUILT BELOW WATER

ARE VERY IMPORTANT.

THE FOUNDATION
FOR THIS BRIDGE ITSELF

IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT
THINGS WE COULD HAVE

BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT
HOLDS THIS WHOLE THING UP.

IF WE HAD PILING
THAT WEREN'T DRIVEN PROPERLY

OR WEREN'T DRIVEN
TO THE RIGHT BEARING OR TO ROCK

WE COULD HAVE A POSSIBILITY

OF THE WHOLE THING SAGGING
TO ONE SIDE OR THE OTHER.

SO THESE THINGS THAT, UH...
THESE THINGS THAT CAN'T BE SEEN

IS WHAT THE PUBLIC PUTS A GOOD
DEAL OF TRUST IN ENGINEERS

TO MAKE SURE THAT
THE STUFF IS PROPERLY INSTALLED.

Narrator:
THE NEXT STEP IS THE
CONSTRUCTION OF THE FOUNDATIONS

FOR THE MISSOURI APPROACH
TO THE BRIDGE.

HERE THE ENGINEERS HAVE HAD
TO BE UNUSUALLY INNOVATIVE

BECAUSE THE RIVER IS 70 FEET
DEEP ON THE MISSOURI SIDE

AND THE PRESSURE
AT THE BOTTOM WOULD CRUSH

A CONVENTIONAL COFFERDAM.

THEIR SOLUTION IS
TO BUILD A PLATFORM ON STILTS

40 FEET UP FROM THE BOTTOM

WHERE THE WATER PRESSURE
IS MUCH LESS.

THIS PLATFORM WILL THEN SERVE
AS THE BASE OF THE COFFERDAM.

NEXT, 24 STEEL TUBES ARE
HAMMERED ALL THE WAY TO BEDROCK

AND FILLED WITH
REINFORCING AND CONCRETE

TO BECOME THE PERMANENT SUPPORTS

OF THE MISSOURI
APPROACH FOUNDATIONS.

THEN THE WALLS OF THE COFFERDAM
ARE BUILT PANEL BY PANEL.

THE HOLES IN THE CONCRETE SLAB
WHERE THE TUBES GO THROUGH

MUST NOW BE PLUGGED BY HAND.

THE WORK IS HANDLED

BY A FEW MEN TAKING RISKS
THAT MOST WOULD SHUN.

THEY BEGIN ONE FRIGID MORNING.

Man:
IT'S PRETTY COLD DOWN THERE.

YOU CAN MAKE IT ABOUT A HOUR
BEFORE YOU GET REAL COLD.

WE'LL BE TAKING TURNS... ME AND
HIM, BE TAKING TURNS DOING IT.

HE'LL PROBABLY BE IN THERE
45 MINUTES OR SO.

THERE'S NO VISIBILITY AT ALL.

I JUST FEEL AROUND DOWN THERE.

Diver:
I have my hand
on the pipe.

DROP A LITTLE ONE
IN THERE.

HERE COMES
A LITTLE ONE.

THERE'S A CONCRETE
PAD DOWN THERE

THAT IS SUPPORTED BY THESE REBAR

AND, UH, THESE 30-INCH PILING
ARE DROVE THROUGH THERE

AND HE'S SANDBAGGING
AROUND THE PILING

SO WHEN THEY POUR
THE SEAL DOWN THERE

THE CONCRETE DOESN'T
RUN OUT ROUND THE PIPES.

Diver:
Drop me about four.

FOUR BIG ONES?

Diver:
Yeah.

FOUR BIG ONES, TOM!

Narrator:
THE BAGS CONTAIN SAND AND CEMENT

THAT, ONCE SUBMERGED,
WILL HARDEN INTO CONCRETE

SEALING THE HOLES.

ONLY THEN CAN THE COFFERDAM
BE PUMPED FREE OF WATER.

BUT THE DIVERS' WORK
ISN'T OVER YET.

TWO SECTIONS OF REINFORCING
STEEL MUST STILL BE LOWERED

INTO EACH OF THE TUBES BEFORE
THEY'RE FILLED WITH CONCRETE.

BUT WHILE THE CREW IS WORKING

SEVERAL SECTIONS BREAK LOOSE
IN SOME OF THE TUBES.

WHEN THE CREW FAILS
TO FISH THEM UP WITH A HOOK

THEY HAVE TO SEND DOWN A DIVER.

WE'LL PULL
THAT CAGE OUT

THEN WE'LL GET
THAT OTHER ONE.

OKAY.

IT'S A 30-INCH PIPE.

AND, UH, IT'S, UH...
WELL, IT'S REAL CLOSE QUARTERS.

IF YOU GOT CLAUSTROPHOBIA,
YOU'D NEVER GET DOWN THERE.

Narrator:
THE DIVER'S LIFELINE IS AN AIR
HOSE CONNECTED TO A COMPRESSOR.

AFTER HE DESCENDS

HE'LL FEEL FOR THE TOP SECTION
OF THE STEEL WITH HIS FEET.

WHEN HE REACHES IT, 60 FEET DOWN

HE'LL TIE ON A LIFTING LINE
AND SIGNAL TO BE HAULED UP.

Narrator:
TEN MINUTES LATER,
THE SIGNAL COMES.

IT'S AN EXHAUSTING
AND DANGEROUS DIVE

BUT IT'S ONLY THE BEGINNING.

THREE MORE SECTIONS
OF REINFORCING STEEL

WILL BE SNARED BY THE DIVER
IN THIS COFFERDAM ALONE

BEFORE THE DAY IS DONE.

WHILE CONSTRUCTION CONTINUES

THE RIVER FLOWS INEXORABLY
TOWARDS WINTER.

IF ANYTHING,
THE PACE HAS QUICKENED.

BARGES AND TUGS BY THE DOZENS
PASS ALTON EACH DAY

FILLED WITH EVERY CONCEIVABLE
TYPE OF COMMODITY.

LEVIATHANS OF STEEL,
DWARFING OTHER VESSELS

THEY ARE PILOTED

BY THE INHERITORS
OF MARK TWAIN'S LEGACY.

STEVE WEDDING HAS BEEN
A RIVER PILOT FOR 25 YEARS.

Wedding:
I'VE GOT SOYBEANS,
CORN AND WHEAT...

ABOUT 21,000 TONS OVERALL HERE,
TOTAL TONNAGE.

12 OF THE LOADS CAME
OUT OF ST. PAUL.

THEN I PICKED UP TWO
AT BURLINGTON, IOWA

AND ONE MORE NEAR KEOKUK, IOWA

FINISHED ME OUT TO 15,
WHICH IS AS MUCH AS WE NEED

TO BRING OUT OF HERE SOUTH.

THAT'S ALL THE LOCKS WILL HOLD,
FOR THAT MATTER

IS 15 LOADED BARGES SOUTHBOUND.

BUT A LOT OF THESE BRIDGES
UP HERE WERE BUILT

FOR OLD-TIME PACKET BOATS,
PADDLE-WHEELERS.

THEY WEREN'T THE SIZE
OF THIS BOAT ALONE

MUCH LESS 1,000 FEET
OF BARGES IN FRONT.

I'M 105 FEET WIDE; WHEN
YOU STICK 1,000 FEET OF THIS

THROUGH THERE WITH CROSSCURRENT
RUNNING THROUGH IT

IT CAN BE VERY TICKLISH.

MY GRANDFATHER AND HIS BROTHERS
PUSHED OLD WOODEN BARGES

AND CARRIED CIDER
OUT OF CALHOUN COUNTY

DOWN HERE
TO A VINEGAR PLANT IN ALTON

AND THEY HAD A SMALL BOAT
AND DREDGE, AND THEY DREDGED...

TO BEGIN WITH, WAS DREDGING
SAND ON THE MISSOURI RIVER.

THEY STARTED A FLEET OVER HERE,
AND IT JUST GREW FROM THERE.

Narrator:
THE MISSISSIPPI HAS ALWAYS
BEEN A WORKING RIVER

ATTRACTING MEN LIKE
STEVE WEDDING AND HIS ANCESTORS.

2,300 MILES LONG, IT'S
THE NATION'S GREATEST WATERWAY

BUT AT MORE THAN A MILE WIDE
IN MANY PLACES

IT IS ALSO A GREAT DIVIDE,
SPLITTING THE COUNTRY IN TWO.

UNTIL THE MID-1800S

THERE WASN'T A SINGLE BRIDGE
THAT SPANNED IT.

A PIONEER FAMILY HEADING WEST
MIGHT WAIT DAYS

FOR A RAFT TO TAKE THEM ACROSS.

FOR YEARS, EVEN THE PEOPLE
WHO LIVED IN THE RIVER TOWNS

HAD TO RELY ON FERRIES.

INEVITABLY, THE FAST-GROWING
BUT BRIDGELESS CITIES

ON THE WEST SIDE OF THE RIVER

FELT CUT OFF FROM THE EASTERN
SIDE AND ITS COMMERCE.

CROSSING THE RIVER BECAME
EVEN MORE IMPORTANT

WITH THE COMING OF THE RAILROAD,
TYING THE COUNTRY TOGETHER

IN A FAST-GROWING NETWORK
OF TRANSPORTATION.

FINALLY, IN 1856,
A NEW ERA BEGAN

WHEN THE FIRST BRIDGE ACROSS
THE MISSISSIPPI WAS BUILT

BETWEEN ROCK ISLAND, ILLINOIS,
AND DAVENPORT, IOWA.

BUT THERE WAS TROUBLE
ALMOST IMMEDIATELY

WHEN A STEAMER RAMMED THE BRIDGE
AND SUED THE RAILROAD.

ARGUING FOR THE DEFENSE WAS A
YOUNG LAWYER NAMED ABE LINCOLN.

"A MAN HAS AS GOOD A RIGHT
TO GO ACROSS A RIVER

AS ANOTHER HAS TO GO
UP OR DOWN IT," HE DECLARED.

LINCOLN WON THE CASE

AND BRIDGES HAVE SPANNED
THE MISSISSIPPI EVER SINCE.

ALTHOUGH MOST
OF THE EARLIEST ONES

HAVE LONG SINCE DISAPPEARED,
A FEW REMAIN

TRIUMPHS OF DESIGN
AND ENGINEERING.

THESE ARE THE ANCESTORS OF
THE NEW CLARK BRIDGE AT ALTON.

WHEN THE MAIN SPAN FOUNDATIONS
ARE FINISHED

IT'S TIME TO BUILD THE TOWERS ON
TOP OF THEM, SECTION BY SECTION

UNTIL THEY RISE 300 FEET
ABOVE THE WATER.

REALISTICALLY, A HALF YARD
IS GOING TO BE PLENTY.

Narrator:
McCARTHY BROTHERS CONSTRUCTION
OF ST. LOUIS

HAS LESS THAN A YEAR
TO FINISH THE TOWERS.

TED DOWNEY IS
THE PROJECT MANAGER.

JUST FERRY THE MEN
BACK AND FORTH.

WORKING OVER WATER IS ONE OF
THE TOUGHEST THINGS YOU CAN DO.

YOU HAVE TO PLAN EVERY MORNING,
WHICH WE DO.

WE MEET EVERY MORNING WITH
THE STAFF FOR JUST A FEW MINUTES

BECAUSE YOU CAN'T JUST WALK OUT

AND, UH, TAKE SOMETHING
OR DRIVE OUT AND GET SOMEBODY.

EVERYTHING HAS TO BE MANEUVERED
BY TUGBOATS AND BARGES.

Narrator:
AT 7:00 IN THE MORNING,
A McCARTHY CREW

OF ABOUT 30 IS TAKEN
BY BOAT TO THE SITE.

ALREADY, THE DIKE
HAS BEEN EXTENDED

TO THE ILLINOIS
MAIN SPAN FOUNDATION

BY THE ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS.

TODAY'S JOB IS TO ADD
MORE REINFORCING STEEL

TO THE FOUNDATION
AS THE TOWER GROWS.

THIS WIRE WILL HOLD
THE HORIZONTAL REINFORCING BARS

IN PLACE
UNTIL CONCRETE IS POURED

BUT THE VERTICAL REINFORCING
WILL GET SPECIAL TREATMENT

BECAUSE IT MUST CARRY
MORE WEIGHT.

IT NEEDS A CONNECTION
AS STRONG AS THE STEEL ITSELF.

SO ON THE END OF EACH VERTICAL
BAR, THERE'S A STEEL CYLINDER

OR SLEEVE, GUIDED OVER
THE END OF A RIDGED BAR

ALREADY EMBEDDED
IN THE FOUNDATION.

THEN A SPLICE IS MADE BY
A SPECIAL TOOL CALLED A SWAGER.

IT SQUEEZES
THE SLEEVE SO TIGHTLY

THAT BOTH ENDS OF THE BAR
ARE JOINED TOGETHER

IN A PERMANENT BOND.

Man:
DO ME A FAVOR

WHILE YOU'RE THERE?

I GUESS I OWE YOU
ONE, DON'T I?

YEAH... WILL YOU
CHECK THE ELEVATION?

Narrator:
AFTER THREE MONTHS, THE FIRST
SECTIONS OF REINFORCING STEEL

ARE COVERED BY CONCRETE.

THE TOWERS ARE NOW 70 FEET
ABOVE THE WATER.

BUT IN THE LATE FALL HERE

THE WEATHER OFTEN TAKES
A TURN FOR THE WORSE.

A RISING WIND IS
THE HARBINGER OF WINTER.

JUST AS THE STEEL FORMS
FOR THE NEXT CONCRETE POUR

ARE HOISTED BY CRANE,
THE WIND DECIDES TO GUST.

LATELY OUR LUCK'S BEEN
RUNNING PRETTY SOUR

TO BE HONEST WITH YOU.

BEHIND US HERE,
THAT FORM ABOVE, ON TEN...

WE HAD PROBLEMS WITH THAT.

WE ATTEMPTED TO SET
THAT FORM THREE TIMES

AND HAD TO SET IT BACK DOWN.

Man:
YOU CAN'T CONTROL THE LOAD.

IT'S OUT OF CONTROL.

THE WIND CONTROLS IT,
IN OTHER WORDS.

YOU DON'T CONTROL IT.

YEAH, IF THE FORM
WOULD HAPPEN TO SPIN

LIKE I SAID BEFORE

AND GOT HUNG UP IN HIS BOOM,
THAT COULD BE BAD.

HE COULD LOSE THE BOOM, OR
IT COULD KNOCK SOMEBODY OFF

YOU KNOW, OFF THE COLUMN.

OR IT COULD DAMAGE THE EXISTING
CONCRETE, THE RE-STEEL

OR EVEN A FORM IF IT GOT,
YOU KNOW... GOT AWAY FROM US.

BUT THOSE ARE
SOME OF THE HAZARDS

OF SETTING, YOU KNOW,
THESE BIG FORMS LIKE THIS

IN THESE HIGH WINDS.

WE'RE TALKING ABOUT
30-, 35-MILE-AN-HOUR GUSTS.

TODAY?

YEP, AND WHAT YOU SEE
IS WHAT WE'LL GET

FOR THE REST
OF THE DAY.

IT'S NOT GOING
TO LET UP ANY.

YOU DON'T THINK WE
CAN JUST GET UP THERE

TIE IT TO IT
AND EASE IT UP

AND SLIP IT DOWN
OVER THE RE-STEEL?

IT'LL CATCH
A LOT OF WIND.

YEAH... SO YOUR
GUT FEELING IS...

I'D RATHER
NOT DO IT.

BETTER NOT DO IT.

Narrator:
THAT AFTERNOON, RAIN ARRIVES
ON THE HEELS OF THE WIND...

BUT ON THE GROUND,
WORK CONTINUES

ON THE NEW SECTION
OF REINFORCING STEEL.

WHEN IT'S FINISHED,
IT WILL BE LIFTED

TO THE TOP OF THE TOWER
IN ONE PIECE.

THE IRONWORKERS HAVE SPECIAL
GUIDES, OR JIGS, ON THE DECK

TO MAKE SURE THEY ASSEMBLE
THE BARS IN THE RIGHT PATTERN.

Man:
THE REASON FOR ALL THIS
INTRICATE LAYOUT WORK

IS THAT THIS TOWER TAPERS

EVER SO SLIGHTLY FROM ELEVATION,
SAY, 500 ALL THE WAY UP TO 630

AND IN ORDER TO MAKE THIS
GRADUAL DECREASE IN SIZE

EACH ONE OF THESE BANDS
HAS TO BE MOVED

A QUARTER OF A INCH IN
IN ONE DIRECTION

AND A EIGHTH OF AN INCH OUT
IN THE OTHER DIRECTION

SO EACH BAND THAT WE MAKE
HAS TO BE INDIVIDUALLY LAID OUT

WHICH IS VERY UNUSUAL
FOR REINFORCING STEEL WORK.

Narrator:
THERE ARE NEARLY FOUR MILES
OF STEEL IN THIS SECTION.

IT WEIGHS 45 TONS.

THE SECTION IS SO HEAVY
A WARNING SIREN GOES OFF

ON THE TOWER CRANE, WHICH
CAN'T BEAR THE WEIGHT ALONE.

ONCE IN THE AIR,
IT CAN ONLY BE HANDLED

BY ANOTHER MORE POWERFUL
CRANE ON A BARGE.

THE CREW MUST NOW MATCH UP
EACH SPLICE WITH ITS MATE.

Man:
TELL MARK I NEED HIS ASS
IN HERE ON THIS WALL.

Narrator:
IT WILL TAKE A DAY AND A HALF
TO FINISH THE JOB.

FROM NOW ON, THE TOWERS WILL
GROW IN THESE 40-FOOT INCREMENTS

AND THE EFFICIENCY AND SAFETY
OF IT ALL DEPENDS HEAVILY

ON ONE OF THE MOST ISOLATED MEN
ON THE JOB...

THE TOWER CRANE OPERATOR.

HE CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE
BETWEEN PROFIT AND LOSS.

I DETEST HEIGHTS, BUT UP THERE
I'M INSIDE OF A CAB.

IT DOESN'T... IT DOESN'T
BOTHER ME WHEN I'M HIGH.

BUT, UH... NO,
IT REALLY DOESN'T BOTHER ME.

TAKE A BEAM THIS SIZE

AND PUT THAT THING
TEN FEET OFF THE GROUND

I COULDN'T WALK IT,
BUT SOMETHING LIKE THAT

IF I'M INSIDE
OF SOMETHING, IT'S...

IT'S LIKE
A SAFETY FACTOR FOR ME.

IT'S THE WAY I AM; IT'S
THE WAY I'VE BEEN ALL MY LIFE

AND ALWAYS WILL BE.

JUST GETTING UP THERE
GETS YOU AWFUL WINDED.

IT'S A LONG CLIMB.

THAT'S MY HOME FOR NINE,
TEN HOURS A DAY UP THERE.

ON A CLEAR DAY,
I CAN PROBABLY SEE 20 MILES.

WHEN I GET HERE,
THEY GO TO WORK.

Just a touch down.

HOLD THAT.

BRING HER IN.

All right.

Bring her down to about 12.

Man:
I'm ahead of it
about 2½ feet now, Dave.

It will go in the window.

It will be a lot easier
to control it that way.

Narrator:
ONCE THE STEEL FORMS
ARE IN PLACE

THE NEXT CONCRETE POUR
CAN BEGIN.

AT FIRST, EVERYTHING
SEEMS TO BE NORMAL.

THERE'S ONLY ONE PROBLEM:

THE CONCRETE THE CREW
JUST POURED HAS FAILED

THE EARL DOERR STRENGTH TEST.

I TOOK A HAMMER AND CHIPPED SOME
OF THE CONCRETE OFF THE SURFACE

AND I NOTICED THAT IT WAS
VERY SOFT, VERY LIGHTWEIGHT.

I TOOK A SAMPLE DOWN WITH ME
TO THE FIELD OFFICE

AND I NOTICED
IT WAS SO LIGHTWEIGHT

IT WOULD ACTUALLY FLOAT
ON THE WATER.

Narrator:
WHEN YOU'RE STUCK
WITH OVER 600 CUBIC FEET

OF BAD CONCRETE, YOUR OPTIONS
ARE EXTREMELY LIMITED.

IN FACT, YOU HAVE ONLY ONE:
GET RID OF IT, AND FAST.

WE'RE IN THE PROCESS NOW
OF TAKING IT DOWN

TO A CERTAIN ELEVATION

THAT THE STATE SAYS
WHERE IT'S GOOD CONCRETE.

PROBABLY AS YOU KNOW,
THIS THROWS US WAY OFF.

COMPLETELY SHUTS, YOU KNOW,
BASICALLY THE WHOLE JOB DOWN

AS FAR AS POURING.

Narrator:
NO ONE LIKES TO HANG AROUND
BECAUSE OF A SUPPLIER'S MISTAKE

ESPECIALLY WHEN
YOU'RE LOSING MONEY.

WITH THE BAD CONCRETE, THERE'S
A GREATER TEMPTATION TO MAKE UP

FOR LOST TIME BY SPEEDING UP
THE WORK AND TAKING MORE RISKS.

Leach:
THERE'S A DANGER, YES

IF YOU GET TOO INVOLVED
WITH THE BRIDGE.

I MEAN, IF IT BECOMES
YOUR SOLE THOUGHT IN LIFE

YOU BEGIN TO FORGET
ABOUT THE HUMAN BEINGS

THAT ARE ACTUALLY BUILDING IT

AND THAT'S SOMETHING

THAT IN BUILDING THESE THINGS
YOU CAN NEVER DO.

Downey:
AND IT'S PRETTY DANGEROUS WORK
FOR THESE GUYS.

IT'S VERY DANGEROUS WORK,
AS A MATTER OF FACT.

WE'RE EXTRA CAREFUL OUT THERE.

WE PUT A LIFE BELT
ON ANYTHING THAT MOVES

AND THAT'S JUST THE WAY IT IS.

IT'S THE NATURE OF THE BEAST.

Narrator:
EVERY CONSTRUCTION WORKER
KNOWS SOMEONE IN THE TRADE

WHO WAS IN THE WRONG PLACE
AT THE WRONG TIME.

WE HAD A FRIEND OF OURS WAS JUST
KILLED COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO...

YOU KNOW, ACCIDENT,
SOME UNFORESEEN THING.

HOOKED ONTO A LOAD, AND
EVIDENTLY HE WAS UNDER IT

OR IN THE PATH OF IT,
AND SOME KIND OF WAY

IT WORKED OUT OF THE CHOKERS

AND IT FELL ON HIM, BROKE
A NUMBER OF BONES IN HIS BODY

AND A COUPLE OF WEEKS
AFTER, HE DIED.

SO MOST OF THE GUYS OUT HERE
ARE REAL SAFETY CONSCIOUS.

THE COMPANY'S
SAFETY CONSCIOUS ITSELF.

WE DON'T WANT TO SEE
NOBODY GET HURT.

Narrator:
TO BE SAFETY CONSCIOUS
IS NOT ALWAYS ENOUGH, THOUGH

AS EACH WORKER KNOWS.

CONSIDER THE CASE OF TIM SUMMERS

A CARPENTER WHO OWES HIS LIFE
TO A STROKE OF LUCK.

SOME WOULD CALL IT A MIRACLE.

IF YOU GOT A PICTURE OF THOSE
TOWER CRANES THAT'S OVER THERE

HE BASICALLY FELL
MAYBE 100 FOOT.

IT WAS QUITE A FALL.

IT'S LUCKY HE DIDN'T, YOU KNOW,
DIDN'T... DIDN'T GET KILLED.

I CAN'T SWIM, SO THIS LIFE VEST
IS WHAT DID IT FOR ME.

SHE-BOLT GAVE ON THE SCAFFOLDING
AND I FELL ABOUT 75, 80 FEET.

I HIT MY HEAD ON SOMETHING
ON THE WAY DOWN...

NOT QUITE SURE WHAT IT WAS.

I HIT THE WATER,
I MISSED THE BARGE

BY 12, 15 FEET, I GUESS.

THAT WAS WHERE I LUCKED OUT,
AND I JUST POPPED UP.

CAME RIGHT OUT OF THE WATER
AND GRABBED ONTO THE LADDER...

IT WAS RIGHT THERE...
CLIMBED RIGHT OUT.

Man:
LIKE NOTHING
EVER HAPPENED.

NO, IT WAS LIKE
SOMETHING HAPPENED.

I JUST HAPPENED TO LUCK OUT
AND NOT HIT THE BARGE

AND THE LADDER WAS THERE.

OTHERWISE I'D HAVE BEEN
RIGHT UNDERNEATH THE BARGE.

Narrator:
A KIND OF STOIC
UNDERSTATEMENT RULES HERE

BUT IT DOESN'T TAKE OUTSIDERS
LONG TO FIGURE OUT

JUST HOW DANGEROUS
THIS JOB REALLY IS.

ALL YOU HAVE TO DO
IS LOOK AROUND.

JUST WATCH AS TWO IRONWORKERS
FINISH OFF THE LATEST SECTION

OF REINFORCING STEEL,
250 FEET ABOVE THE WATER.

Man:
I SEE IT COMING IN...

I SEE IT COMING IN.

Man:
SLOW DOWN!

SIX INCHES, NOT SIX FEET.

YEAH, WE'RE DOING FINE.

JUST KEEP ON
COMING DOWN.

Man:
HEY, TOMMY?

PUT YOUR SAFETY BELT ON
AND HOOK OFF.

Man:
OH, I DIDN'T
SEE YOU.

YOU'RE GETTING
ME NERVOUS.

KEEP THEM APART, BABE.

ALL THE TIME.

I KNOW WHAT
YOU MEAN.

THEY'RE
KNUCKLE-BUSTERS.

JOHN, HOOK UP
THESE NEXT ONES.

TAKE THEM
ALL THE WAY UP

TO THE BEND
IN THE HOOK.

Narrator:
SO FAR, NO ONE'S BEEN
SERIOUSLY INJURED ON THE JOB.

THEN AGAIN, THERE ARE STILL
20 MONTHS TO GO.

IT'S NOW FEBRUARY 10.

DON'T MESS
WITH ME, JIM.

Narrator:
A TYPICAL EIGHT-HOUR SHIFT
BEGINS AT 7:00 A.M.

MOST OF THE WORKERS LIVE
WITHIN 15 MILES OF THE SITE

BUT SOME HAD TO TRAVEL
MORE THAN AN HOUR TO GET HERE.

YOU GOING
TO GO OUT THERE

IN THIS SUBZERO
WEATHER?

WAIT HERE.

YOU KNOW WHAT THAT'S
GOING TO BE LIKE

DON'T YOU?

HANG ON, BABY, AND
HOPE YOU DON'T...

WHAT YOU
SAY, BRO?

READY TO GO HOME.

Narrator:
TODAY, IT'S COLD AND RAW...

HI, HONEY!

Woman:
HI.

Narrator:
BUT THE CAMARADERIE OF THE CREW

IS, IF ANYTHING, STRONGER.

Narrator:
IF YOU'RE A CONSTRUCTION WORKER

YOU HAVE TO SHOW UP NO MATTER
HOW MISERABLE THE WEATHER

BECAUSE YOU WON'T GET PAID
UNLESS YOU DO.

MY ADOPTED DAD HERE.

Narrator:
THE WORKERS PRIDE THEMSELVES
ON THEIR TOUGHNESS.

BUT WINTER ON THE RIVER
IS ESPECIALLY HARD.

THE SKY PROMISES MORE SNOW.

AN HOUR LATER,
IT BEGINS TO FALL, LIGHTLY.

THEN MORE HEAVILY.

Man:
IT'S GOOD WEATHER
TO GET FROSTBITE.

NO NEED TO TAKE A CHANCE.

A LITTLE UNBEARABLE UP THERE
THIS MORNING.

THE WIND'S BLOWING 25, 30 MILES
AN HOUR, ABOUT ZERO.

WHEN YOU'RE CLIMBING AROUND AND
YOUR FINGERS ARE GETTING COLD

IT'S JUST TOO DANGEROUS
FOR ME UP THERE.

I DON'T FEEL COMFORTABLE.

A FEW OF THE CARPENTERS...

THAT WEATHER SOCK
BLEW OFF THE TOP.

WE GOT IT PULLED DOWN.

THEY'LL ALL COME DOWN,
TOO, BEFORE LONG.

THEY GET A LITTLE TASTE
OF IT UP THERE.

THEY COME UP AFTER WE DID.

CAN'T KEEP A HARD HAT ON...
YOUR HARD HAT BLEW OFF.

LIKE I SAID, I JUST THINK

IT'S TOO DANGEROUS
UP THERE THIS MORNING.

Narrator:
THERE WILL BE MORE SNOW
THROUGHOUT THE WINTER.

IT'S A CONSTANT STRUGGLE
TO KEEP FROM FALLING BEHIND.

DESPITE THE WEATHER

THE TWO TOWERS ARE NEARLY
FINISHED BY THE SPRING.

WITHIN A FEW DAYS, ONE CREW
PUTS IN THE FIRST STEEL GIRDERS

THAT WILL SUPPORT THE ROAD DECK.

AT THE SAME TIME

ANOTHER CREW IS GETTING READY
FOR THE FINAL STAGE

IN THE TOWERS' CONSTRUCTION.

THIS CURVED, SADDLE-LIKE
STRUCTURE WILL CROWN EACH TOWER

AND HOLD THE BRIDGE'S CABLES.

IT GOES UP IN TWO PIECES,
WHICH MUST BE JOINED AT THE TOP.

LATER, THIS SPACE BENEATH
WILL BE FILLED WITH CONCRETE

PERMANENTLY SUPPORTING
THE PLATES AND THE CABLES

THAT WILL DRAPE OVER THEM.

AND SO, FOR THE LAST TIME

BUCKETS OF CONCRETE ARE SENT
TO THE TOP OF THE TOWERS.

WHEN THE CONCRETE HAS SET,
THE STEEL FORMS ARE REMOVED.

THE TOWERS ARE FINISHED
AT LAST...

THE END OF A LONG STRUGGLE
AGAINST TIME.

THE TOWERS AREN'T THE ONLY PART
OF THE PROJECT, HOWEVER.

ON THE ILLINOIS SHORE,
ANOTHER CONTRACTOR MUST BUILD

THE APPROACH
LEADING TO THE BRIDGE

AND HE'S ALREADY RUNNING LATE.

THINGS QUICKLY GO
FROM BAD TO WORSE.

AN ACCIDENT STOPS CONSTRUCTION
IN ITS TRACKS

ONLY A FEW WEEKS
AFTER IT BEGINS.

A CRANE HAS TIPPED OVER

WHILE TRYING TO LIFT
AN OVERSIZE LOAD.

WORSE, THE OPERATOR MAY BE HURT

ALTHOUGH HOW BADLY
ISN'T KNOWN YET.

HE'LL BE TAKEN TO THE NEAREST
HOSPITAL FOR TESTS.

THIS IS THE MOMENT
THAT EVERYONE DREADS...

THE POSSIBILITY
OF A SERIOUS INJURY.

FORTUNATELY,
THE MAN WILL RECOVER

BUT THE SAME CAN'T BE SAID
FOR THE SCHEDULE.

THERE ARE FURTHER DELAYS

WHEN DREDGING BEGINS FOR
THE UNDERWATER FOUNDATIONS.

SOMETHING IS DOWN THERE
THAT THE CREW DIDN'T EXPECT.

WE COULDN'T COMPLETE
THE EXCAVATION

BECAUSE WE HIT SOMETHING

AND COULDN'T GET THROUGH IT,
AROUND IT OR UNDER IT

SO WE SENT A DIVER DOWN
TO TAKE A LOOK AT WHAT WE HAD

AND THAT'S WHEN WE FOUND OUT
WE HAD A BARGE.

THEY'RE CHOPPING THROUGH
THE INNER BOTTOM RIGHT NOW

AND IT COULD BE
UP TO 200 FEET LONG

AND ALL'S WE NEED IS
A SECTION BIG ENOUGH OUT

TO GET OUR PIER IN RIGHT HERE.

WE CAN'T DO ANY WORK HERE
ON PIER NUMBER 13

UNTIL THIS IS RESOLVED.

AND ONE OF OUR COFFERDAMS IS
DIRECTLY OVER THIS SUNKEN BARGE

SO UNTIL THAT BARGE IS REMOVED

WE CAN'T GO TO WORK
ON PIER NUMBER 13.

NUMBER 13, THAT'S
A LUCKY NUMBER, ISN'T IT?

OUR COSTS TO KEEP
A JOB LIKE THIS GOING ARE

OH, MAYBE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
OF $100,000 A MONTH.

SO IF YOU LOSE A MONTH
ON A JOB LIKE THIS

YOU NEVER... YOU NEVER
RECUPERATE ALL OF THAT.

THAT'S PART OF THE RISK
OF DOING BUSINESS.

Narrator:
WITH THIS HUGE SQUARE
OF RUSTY STEEL REMOVED

THE CREW CAN FINALLY GO AHEAD
WITH PIER NUMBER 13.

BUT THE RIVER YIELDS
TO THE BRIDGE

ONLY WITH THE GREATEST
RELUCTANCE.

EVEN THOUGH AT THE PRESENT TIME

THINGS LOOK RELATIVELY CALM
WITH THE RIVER

WE KNOW THAT IT CAN
GIVE US PROBLEMS

AND IT TENDS TO BE
RATHER UNFORGIVING.

SOME WRITERS HAVE EVEN REFERRED
TO IT AS A GREAT BROWN GOD

AND I THINK THAT'S ONE OF
THE THINGS THAT SOME OF US...

THOSE OF US WHO'VE WORKED
ON THE RIVER BEFORE...

CERTAINLY HAVE A HEALTHY RESPECT

AND WILL ALWAYS ATTEMPT
TO MAINTAIN A HEALTHY RESPECT.

Narrator:
BUT RESPECT MAY NOT BE ENOUGH
IN THE MONTHS TO COME

WHEN EVEN THE BRIDGE ITSELF
WILL BE THREATENED

BY THE RIVER'S MIGHT.

IT'S NOW TWO YEARS
AFTER CONSTRUCTION BEGAN

AND THE MOST CHALLENGING AND
NERVE-WRACKING PHASE LIES AHEAD.

FOR THE NEXT 16 MONTHS,
THE CREW WILL HAVE TO WRESTLE

WITH UNTESTED TECHNIQUES,
COSTLY MISTAKES

AND EVEN THE RIVER ITSELF.

BY THE SUMMER, THE MAIN SPAN
TOWERS ARE FINISHED

AND THE CREW IS GETTING READY
TO INSTALL THE FIRST CABLE STAYS

WHICH WILL SUPPORT
THE ROAD DECK.

EACH CABLE STAY WILL RUN
FROM ONE SIDE OF THE DECK

OVER THE TOP OF A TOWER
AND THEN DOWN TO THE OTHER SIDE.

A STAY CONSISTS
OF FROM 19 TO 46 STEEL CABLES

HOUSED IN A PROTECTIVE STEEL
TUBE CALLED A BANANA PIPE...

NAMED FOR ITS COLOR...

AND A FLEXIBLE BLACK PLASTIC
PIPE FOR WEATHERPROOFING.

AT THE ENDS
ARE ANCHORAGE DEVICES

TO HELP FASTEN THE STAY
TO THE DECK.

THE CABLE FOR THE STAYS IS MADE
IN JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA.

THERE ARE ABOUT 112 MILES
OF IT, WOUND IN SPOOLS.

SPECIALIZED MACHINES
SPIN THE CABLE

OUT OF SEVEN STRANDS
OF HIGH-STRENGTH STEEL.

TO RESIST CORROSION, THE CABLE
IS THEN COATED WITH EPOXY.

IT'S ALSO COVERED
WITH WHITE GRIT.

THE GRIT WILL KEEP THE CABLES
FROM SLIPPING

ONCE THEY'RE BOUND TOGETHER.

THE LAST STAGE IS
THE WATERPROOFING TEST...

CRUCIAL BECAUSE EVEN MINUTE
SPOTS OF CORROSION ON THE STEEL

CAN LEAD
TO A DEVASTATING FAILURE.

ANOTHER POTENTIAL PROBLEM

IS THE ENORMOUS LENGTH
OF THE CABLES

BECAUSE THEY'RE DESIGNED TO
DRAPE OVER THE TOP OF THE TOWER

IN A CONTINUOUS STRAND.

AS IT TURNS OUT,
THE EXTRA-LONG STAYS

QUICKLY MAKE
FOR A CONSTRUCTION NIGHTMARE.

INITIALLY WE WERE
PULLING THE CABLES

THROUGH THE BANANA PIPE UP THERE

ONE AND TWO AT A TIME.

BY THE TIME WE GOT 37 CABLES
PULLED THROUGH

WHY, A GOOD DEAL OF THE CABLES
WERE UNUSABLE IN THE PACK.

Doerr:
THIS WAS THE METHOD
HE HAD CHOSE TO USE

AND WE THOUGHT IT'S UP TO HIM
TO GIVE IT A TRY.

AND AFTER HE HAD DONE THAT

WE TOOK IT APART
AND THIS IS WHAT WE FOUND.

ONE CABLE WAS ACTUALLY RUBBING
OVER THE TOP OF ANOTHER CABLE.

AS YOU CAN SEE HERE

IT TOOK OFF SOME OF THE EPOXY
COATING, WHICH WE DON'T WANT.

THIS COATING THAT'S ON
THE CABLE STAYS IS VERY ABRASIVE

AND AS ONE CABLE WAS PULLED
ACROSS THE OTHER

IT ACTUALLY CUT

INTO THE CROSS-SECTIONAL AREA
OF THE STEEL ITSELF

WHICH WOULD DETRACT
FROM THE STRENGTH OF THE CABLE.

Narrator:
A MONTH AND A HALF
HAS BEEN WASTED

ALONG WITH THOUSANDS
OF FEET OF CABLE.

THERE'S NO OTHER CHOICE BUT
TO START OVER FROM SCRATCH.

Kathman:
NOW WE HAVE DEVELOPED A SYSTEM

OF PULLING THE CABLES OUT
INDIVIDUALLY

AND THEN PUTTING THEM
ALL TOGETHER

AND PULLING ALL OF THEM TOGETHER
THROUGH THE BANANA PIPE.

SO THEY ONLY MAKE ONE TRIP
THROUGH THE BANANA PIPE

AND THEY DON'T WEAR
ON EACH OTHER.

AND IT LOOKS LIKE
THIS IS GOING TO BE

THE WAY WE'RE GOING
TO TRAVEL HERE.

THE LONGEST ONES ARE,
LIKE, 768 FEET LONG.

RIGHT NOW YOU'RE SEEING CABLES
THAT ARE ONLY 400.

AS WE GET INTO MORE CABLES
AND LONGER CABLES

WE DON'T KNOW IF OUR EQUIPMENT
CAN PULL THEM.

MY GOSH, WE'RE GOING TO BE DOWN
THE ROAD A COUPLE OF BLOCKS

STRINGING THE CABLES OUT.

IT'S JUST GOING TO PRESENT

A WHOLE NEW SET
OF PROBLEMS FOR US.

BUT, LIKE HERE

WHY, WE'LL JUST KIND OF HAVE
TO WORK OUR WAY THROUGH THEM.

NOBODY HAD EVER DONE THIS BEFORE
ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD...

PREASSEMBLE THESE CABLES
LIKE THIS.

SO WHAT WE'RE DOING HERE
IS WE'RE...

WE'RE CUTTING NEW GROUND.

THE NEXT OBJECTIVE AFTER
THE CABLE STAYS ARE BUILT UP

IS TO TAKE A CONFIGURATION
OF CABLES LIKE THIS

AND THREAD THEM THROUGH
SOMETHING CALLED A WEDGE PLATE.

AND A WEDGE PLATE IS THE DEVICE

THAT ENABLES US TO ANCHOR
THE CABLE STAYS

TO THE STRUCTURAL STEEL
OF THE BRIDGE

AND THAT'S WHAT WILL ULTIMATELY
HOLD THE BRIDGE IN PLACE.

THAT'S NUMBER... 22.

Doerr:
IT'S KIND OF LIKE THREADING
46 NEEDLES AT ONE TIME.

WE'RE TRYING TO LINE UP
46 INDIVIDUAL HOLES

AND THREAD ALL 46 OF THESE
THROUGH AT ONE TIME.

HOLD IT.

THE ALIGNMENT
OF THE INDIVIDUAL CABLES

AS THEY PASS THROUGH
THE WEDGE PLATE IS CRITICAL.

WE WANT THE CABLE TO BE
PERFECTLY PERPENDICULAR

TO THE SURFACE
OF THE WEDGE PLATE.

WE ALSO WANT THE CABLE
TO BE CENTERED IN ITS HOLE.

THE WEIGHT OF THE STRUCTURE
IS CARRIED BY THE CABLES.

THAT LOAD IS TRANSFERRED FROM
THE CABLE TO THE ANCHOR ASSEMBLY

BY THESE LITTLE JAW DEVICES
WHICH ARE CALLED WEDGES.

AND THEY DO THIS BY SMALL TEETH
THAT ARE CUT INTO THE WEDGES.

THESE TEETH BITE
THROUGH THE EPOXY COATING

INTO THE STEEL
OF THE STRAND ITSELF.

THEY'RE SMALL
BUT THEY'RE MIGHTY.

THESE WEDGES HERE HAVE TO BE
EQUALLY SPACED AROUND THE CABLE

TO ENSURE PROPER FITTING

WHEN THEY STRETCH THE CABLE OUT
ON THE BRIDGE.

YOU GET TWO OF THEM TO ONE SIDE,
YOU CAUSE A BIG GAP OVER HERE

THEY'LL BITE THE CABLE
INCORRECTLY

AND COULD ACTUALLY KINK IT
OR CUT IT.

THEN YOU WOULDN'T HAVE
THE STRENGTH ON THAT CABLE.

SO EACH INDIVIDUAL WEDGE
GETS SPECIAL TREATMENT.

WE LOOK AT EACH
AND EVERY ONE OF THEM

AND MAKE SURE THAT
THEY ARE SET RIGHT.

Narrator:
IF THE PROBLEM OF ASSEMBLING
THE STAYS HAS BEEN SOLVED

GETTING THEM UP ON THE TOWER.

THE SOLUTION HERE IS
TO MOVE VERY, VERY SLOWLY

BOTH ON THE GROUND
AND IN THE AIR.

IT TAKES THREE CRANES
TO LIFT THE STAY:

ONE FOR THE BANANA PIPE IN THE
CENTER AND TWO FOR THE ENDS.

WHEN THE BANANA PIPE
IS JUST ABOVE ITS BED

THE CREW BEGINS TO MOVE IT
INTO POSITION.

EACH STAY HAS TO FIT PERFECTLY
INTO AN ANCHORAGE SLOT.

THERE'S ONLY A FRACTION
OF AN INCH TO SPARE.

WHEN THE STAY IS FINALLY SECURED
ON TOP OF THE TOWER

OTHER WORKERS AT THE BOTTOM TURN
THEIR ATTENTION TO EACH END.

THIS IS WHAT KNITS
THE BRIDGE TOGETHER.

TO PULL THE STAYS TIGHT

SPECIAL JACKS CALLED RAMS
ARE THEN BROUGHT IN.

IT COSTS $1,300 A MONTH
TO RENT JUST ONE

BUT THEY'RE THE ONLY TOOLS
THAT CAN DO THE JOB.

EVERY TIME THE CABLES ARE
TIGHTENED, IT TAKES FOUR RAMS.

THE CABLES HAVE TO BE STRESSED
IN PAIRS...

ONE RAM ON BOTH ENDS
OF EACH CABLE.

FIRST, THE END OF THE STAY
IS INSERTED INTO A GUIDE PIPE.

THEN, EACH RAM IS INSTALLED
FAR BELOW THE TOP OF THE TOWER

AT THE STAY'S ANCHORAGE POINT.

THE CABLE IS FED THROUGH

THE RAM GRIPS IT AND PULLS IT
TIGHT, 12 INCHES AT A TIME.

ON FIVE.

Narrator:
AS THE RAM TIGHTENS THE CABLE

THE AMOUNT OF TENSION
IS CAREFULLY MONITORED.

SEVEN.

Narrator:
EACH STAY IS TENSIONED

TO A CAREFULLY
CALCULATED DEGREE...

TIGHT ENOUGH
TO SUPPORT THE DECK

AND LOOSE ENOUGH
TO FLEX IN THE WIND.

WHEN ANOTHER SUMMER HAS PASSED

AND AUTUMN IS PAINTING
THE RIVER BANKS ORANGE

THE SURROUNDING COUNTRYSIDE
WAITS EXPECTANTLY

FOR THE BRIDGE
AND ANOTHER HARVEST.

AUTUMN IS THE TIME OF RECKONING
FOR EVERY FARMER.

HERE, THE GRAIN IS GOLDEN
IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE.

IT'S THE COIN OF THE REALM.

BUT EVEN A FINE HARVEST

WON'T BRING FINANCIAL SECURITY
TO LOCAL TOWNS.

TOO FEW PEOPLE WORK ON FARMS
THESE DAYS

AND TOO MANY FARMERS
ARE IN DEBT.

INSTEAD, THE HOPE
OF A PLACE LIKE ALTON

IS TO BECOME A MORE PROSPEROUS
SUBURB OF ST. LOUIS:

A BEDROOM COMMUNITY
WITH CHARM...

A FINE PLACE TO RAISE CHILDREN,
DOGS AND PROPERTY VALUES...

AND TO KEEP THE CASH FLOWING

A PRIME TOURIST ATTRACTION
AS WELL

WITH REMINDERS
OF MARK TWAIN'S AMERICA

WHEN ALTON WAS AT THE PINNACLE
OF ITS FAME AND FORTUNE.

BUT TO MAKE ALTON GREAT AGAIN

WILL TAKE MORE
THAN ECHOES OF THE PAST.

ALTON NEEDS A MODERN BRIDGE
FOR A MODERN AGE

AND EVERYONE KNOWS IT.

THE BRIDGE IS BIG NEWS

EVEN AT ALTON'S EUNICE SMITH
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL.

TODAY, A CLASS IS TAKING A FIELD
TRIP TO SEE FOR THEMSELVES.

Student:
NICE BRIDGE.

A MODEL OF THE BRIDGE
HAS BEEN SET UP

ON THE BANKS OF THE RIVER,
OVERLOOKING THE SITE.

Boy:
NO, TAKE IT APART
BIG PIECE BY BIG PIECE.

GOOD MORNING, EVERYBODY.

Students:
MORNING!

WHAT WE'RE TRYING TO DO HERE

IS BUILD A BRAND-NEW BRIDGE

TO REPLACE THAT OLD BRIDGE YOU
SEE IN THE BACKGROUND HERE.

YOU ALL KNOW HOW NARROW THAT IS
AND HOW BUMPY IT IS.

THE NEW BRIDGE
WILL LOOK LIKE THIS

WHERE IT CROSSES
THE MIDDLE OF THE RIVER.

THERE'S MORE OF THE BRIDGE
ON EITHER END OF IT

THAT'S NOT SHOWN,
BUT THIS WILL BE THE MAIN PART.

IT'LL BE FOUR LANES WIDE

SO IT'LL CARRY AT LEAST TWICE
AS MUCH TRAFFIC AS THAT BRIDGE

AND IT'LL ALSO HAVE
A BICYCLE LANE

SO YOU CAN RIDE YOUR BICYCLES
BACK AND FORTH ACROSS IT.

IT'LL BE KIND OF NEAT TO RIDE
OVER THE RIVER IN YOUR BICYCLE.

Doerr:
YES, MA'AM?

Girl:
WILL WE HAVE TO PAY
HIGHER TAXES?

NO, YOU WILL NOT
HAVE TO PAY HIGHER TAXES

TO DRIVE THIS BRIDGE.

WHERE THE MONEY COMES FROM
THIS BRIDGE

IS EVERY TIME YOUR MOTHER
AND FATHER BUYS GASOLINE

AT THE FILLING STATION

THEY PAY A LITTLE BIT OF TAX
ON EVERY GALLON

AND RIGHT NOW, IT'S
ABOUT 16 CENTS PER GALLON

OF WHATEVER YOU PAY.

IT GOES INTO A FUND
TO BUILD BRIDGES AND ROADS

AND THAT'S HOW ALL OUR BRIDGES
AND ROADS ARE PAID FOR

IN THE WHOLE COUNTRY...
IT COMES FROM TAXES ON GASOLINE.

YOU IN THE BACK HERE.

HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?

HOW MUCH
WILL IT COST?

WE THINK IT WILL COST
RIGHT AT $90 MILLION.

YES, SIR?

HOW MANY CABLES
WILL IT TAKE?

Narrator:
BACK IN THE CLASSROOM

THE CHILDREN DESIGN
THEIR OWN BRIDGES.

THE MOMENT OF TRUTH
COMES A WEEK LATER

WHEN EACH MODEL
IS PUT TO THE TEST.

THE WINNER WILL BE THE ONE
THAT CAN BEAR THE MOST WEIGHT.

Teacher:
NO BRIDGE WILL PROBABLY
MAKE IT OUT ALIVE TODAY.

MAYBE SOME WILL... THEY MAY HOLD
ALL OF THE CONCRETE BLOCKS.

THE GIANT BLOCKS,
THE BIG CONCRETE BLOCKS

WEIGH 55 POUNDS EACH...

55, OKAY, WAIT A MINUTE.

THE SMALL ONES ARE
38 POUNDS EACH.

RHONDA, YOU WILL BE
FIRST... COME ON UP.

BRING YOUR BRIDGE UP.

Narrator:
FROM THE START,
THE KIDS GET A VIVID LESSON

IN THE SCIENCE AND ART
OF ENGINEERING.

Teacher:
IT HELD 38 POUNDS.

HERE'S THE SECOND ONE.

Student:
YES.

THAT'S 76.

OKAY, GO RIGHT AHEAD
WITH THE NEXT ONE.

Students:
UH-OH...

THIS IS WEIRD.

RHONDA, COME ON OVER
AND SEE IT, HON.

SIT DOWN SO THAT
IT'S NOT DANGEROUS.

OH!

Narrator:
THE KIDS ALSO WITNESS FIRSTHAND
THE CRUELTY OF GRAVITY.

AND THE WINNER:

A MODEL HOLDING MORE THAN
100 TIMES ITS WEIGHT...

Boy:
FALL!

Students:
OH.

Narrator:
AT LEAST FOR A FEW MOMENTS.

IT DEFINITELY
HELD THREE.

Narrator:
BUT IT'S THE POWER AND BEAUTY
OF A WELL-DESIGNED BRIDGE

THAT FITTINGLY ENDS THE LESSON.

Boy:
"BIG BRIGHT BRIDGES,"
A POEM BY MARLON LANCASTER.

"BIG BRIGHT BRIDGES,
RADICAL WAVING RIVER

"INTERESTING ROCKY ROADS,
ENORMOUS SKINNY SPANS

DANGEROUS BIKE ROUTES,
GREAT BEAUTIFUL BRIDGES."

Narrator:
WHEN THE FIRST CABLE STAYS AND
STRUCTURAL STEEL ARE IN PLACE

IT'S TIME TO INSTALL STEEL
GIRDERS FOR THE ROAD DECK.

300 MILES AWAY IN DES MOINES

THE FABRICATION OF THE GIRDERS
TAKES PLACE

AT A COMPANY CALLED
PITTSBURGH-DES MOINES.

THE PROCESS BEGINS
WITH A PLATE OF RAW STEEL.

THIS PLATE IS DESTINED
TO BECOME AN EDGE GIRDER...

ONE OF 66 IN ALL.

WHEN IT'S FINISHED

THE GIRDER WILL RUN ALONG THE
OUTSIDE EDGE OF THE ROAD DECK.

TO MAKE EACH ONE TAKES THREE
IMMENSE PIECES OF RAW STEEL.

THEY'RE ALL CUSTOM-MADE.

THEY'RE MEASURED...

CUT...

WELDED...

DRILLED FOR BOLT HOLES...

SANDED SMOOTH...

AND SWEPT CLEAN.

THE COMPANY CAN ASSEMBLE
THREE OF THEM A DAY

AT A COST OF $30,000 EACH.

35 FEET BY FIVE FEET

THE FINISHED GIRDER
WEIGHS ABOUT 17 TONS.

IT WILL TAKE SIX MONTHS
TO FABRICATE

ALL THE STRUCTURAL STEEL
FOR THE BRIDGE'S MAIN SPAN.

TODAY, ONE OF THE
FIRST PIECES IS BEGINNING

THE 18-HOUR TRIP TO ALTON

AT THE DAZZLING SPEED
OF 20 MILES AN HOUR.

BACK AT THE SITE, ALL THE PIECES
MUST FIT TOGETHER PERFECTLY.

THIS SECTION OF THE ROAD DECK
ARRIVES IN FOUR MAIN PIECES

WHICH ARE JOINED TOGETHER
ON THE SHORE.

CAN YOU COME DOWN
A LITTLE MORE?

Narrator:
AFTER IT'S ASSEMBLED

THE 100-FOOT SECTION IS HOISTED
UP BY A PAIR OF CRANES.

AND THIS IS WHERE IT'S HEADED...

TO A PRIME POSITION
CLOSE TO THE TOWER.

THE TWO CRANE OPERATORS
MUST BE ENORMOUSLY SKILLED...

ONE AT EACH END OF 76 TONS
OF STEEL, DANGLING IN MIDAIR.

Man:
Coming up... coming up.

Man:
HOLD THAT, HOLD THAT.

Man:
OSCAR, WE'RE IN.

Narrator:
TO LINE UP THE BOLT HOLES

WORKERS HAMMER IN STEEL SPIKES
CALLED DRIFT PINS.

THEN THE BOLTS GO IN...

AT FIRST FASTENED LOOSELY
BY HAND

THEN TIGHTENED LATER
FOR OPTIMAL STRENGTH.

Man:
IN THE NEWER STEEL BRIDGES

THEY'RE GOING TO LIGHTER WEIGHTS
AND STRONGER STEELS.

UNDER THE OLD BRIDGES,
THEY WERE SO OVERLY DESIGNED

THAT IT REALLY DIDN'T,
YOU KNOW, MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE.

YOU COULD HAVE A FEW...
YOU KNOW, A FEW LOOSE BOLTS

AND THE BRIDGE
WOULD STILL BE SAFE.

BUT UNDER THESE NEW SYSTEMS

IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT
THE BOLTS BE PROPERLY TIGHTENED.

THIS APPARATUS HAS
A DOUBLE SOCKET

ONE ON THE INSIDE THAT GOES
OVER THE TIP OF THE BOLT

AND THEN THE OUTSIDE,
WHICH GOES OVER THE NUT

AND THEY TURN
IN OPPOSING DIRECTIONS.

THE NUT WILL BE DOING
MOST OF THE TURNING

AND WHEN IT REACHES
THE PROPER TENSION

THE INSIDE SOCKET WILL TWIST
THE TIP OF THE BOLT OFF.

WHEN THIS TIP IS TWISTED OFF

YOU KNOW THAT THE BOLT
HAS BEEN TENSIONED PROPERLY.

Narrator:
THIS IS WHEN THE BOLTS FACE
THE GREATEST AMOUNT OF STRESS.

SINCE EACH SECTION OF DECK
MUST BE INSTALLED

BEFORE ITS CABLE STAYS
CAN BE ATTACHED

THE BOLTS ALONE MUST CARRY
THE LOAD FOR NOW.

BUT THEY WON'T BE ASKED
TO WORK ALONE FOR VERY LONG.

WITHIN A DAY,
MORE CABLE STAYS WILL GO UP.

AND THEN THE DECK WILL BE READY
TO CARRY ITS OWN BURDEN.

THESE MASSIVE CONCRETE SLABS
WILL BECOME THE ROADBED

FOR THE BRIDGE'S MAIN SPAN.

AND SO THE PROCESS IS REPEATED.

AS THE STRUCTURAL STEEL
PUSHES OUTWARD

THE STAYS FOLLOW CLOSE BEHIND

SUPPORTING THE WEIGHT
FROM ABOVE.

EACH CYCLE IS SUPPOSED
TO TAKE TWO WEEKS.

BUT GOALS ARE ONE THING;
REALITY IS ANOTHER.

IN CONSTRUCTION,
YOU TEND TO GET NERVOUS

WHEN EVERYTHING GOES TOO WELL.

YOU JUST KNOW THAT SOMETHING
IS BOUND TO GO WRONG.

THIS WEEK'S PROBLEM IS
A POTENTIAL DISASTER.

EVEN EARL DOERR
IS BECOMING A BIT GRIM.

THE RESULTS OF OUR FIRST
CABLE-STAY TESTS JUST CAME IN

AND THIS WAS A FULL-SCALE
MOCK-UP OF AN ACTUAL CABLE STAY.

THE RESULTS WERE
NOT ENCOURAGING AT ALL.

WE EXPERIENCED
A NUMBER OF WIRE BREAKS

WE EXPERIENCED SOME CORROSION.

WE KNOW WE'VE GOT
SOME SERIOUS PROBLEMS.

I DON'T KNOW IF WE'LL
EVER BE 100% CERTAIN

BUT ALL FINGERS POINT
TOWARD CORROSION IN THE STRAND

AS IT WAS BEING MANUFACTURED.

WE'VE GOT A PROBLEM
IF IT FAILS AGAIN

IN THAT IT WILL DELAY
THE MATERIAL...

THE MATERIAL'S ARRIVAL
TO THE JOB SITE.

WE CANNOT INSTALL ANY MATERIALS
UNTIL THESE TESTS ARE PASSED.

Narrator:
THE CREW IS RUNNING OUT
OF APPROVED CABLE

AND AFTER THAT'S USED UP

ALL WORK ON THE MAIN SPAN
MAY HAVE TO STOP.

FURTHER TESTS ARE ORDERED,
BUT THEY'LL TAKE A MONTH.

FOR THE MANAGEMENT TEAM

IT'S THE LONGEST MONTH
OF THE PROJECT.

THIS MACHINE HAS BEEN TUGGING
AT A SECTION OF CABLE STAY

EVERY TWO SECONDS
FOR 30 DAYS NOW

SIMULATING 50 YEARS
OF WEAR AND TEAR.

THE PROCESS IS SIMILAR
TO TAKING A PIECE OF WIRE

AND BENDING IT BACK AND FORTH
UNTIL FINALLY IT BREAKS.

THE SAMPLE STAY HAS
ALREADY BEEN STRETCHED

CLOSE TO THE BREAKING POINT.

IF IT PULLS APART NOW,
IT TOO WILL BE REJECTED.

A FAILURE HERE WILL CAUSE
EVEN FURTHER DELAYS

AND COST MILLIONS.

THE TEST IS SO CRITICAL
TO THE PROJECT'S FUTURE

THAT REPRESENTATIVES
FROM THE DESIGN ENGINEERS

THE ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT
OF TRANSPORTATION

AND THE CONTRACTORS
ARE ALL HERE...

WAITING ANXIOUSLY.

ONE AND A QUARTER
INCH IT HAS MOVED

SINCE WE STARTED
AT 300,000 POUNDS.

Man:
IS THIS RUNNING NOW
FOR THE DURATION?

YEAH, WE JUST
GO THROUGH.

Man:
IT'S GOING TO BE CLOSE.

Narrator:
946,000 POUNDS IS
THE TARGET LOAD.

BUT INSTEAD OF
A BLOOD-CHILLING SNAP

THERE'S ONLY A DEEP SIGH
OF RELIEF.

THE SAMPLE HAS PASSED THE TEST.

WHEN THE STAY IS SLICED APART
FOR CLOSER EXAMINATION

EVERYTHING IS INTACT.

FURTHER TESTS OF OTHER SAMPLES
WILL GO JUST AS WELL.

THE CRISIS IS OVER.

THERE WILL BE OTHER CRISES,
BOTH LARGE AND SMALL.

THE TIGHTENING
OF THE CABLE STAYS

HAS BEEN PLAGUED WITH PROBLEMS.

A LITTLE MORE DOWN.

HOLD UP.

WELL, RIGHT NOW WE'RE TAKING
THE SLACK OUT OF THE CABLE

AND I'M RUNNING THE RAM BACK IN
NOW TO GET ANOTHER BITE

SO I CAN PULL SOME MORE OUT

AND IT'LL PULL IT IN, UH...
12-INCH STROKES.

Jackson:
What's going on up here?

Man:
I checked the top... it's clear.

You know, it sounds
like it's going on

inside the wedge head there.

THE CABLE ON THE OTHER SIDE
JUST...

HEARING SOME POPPING NOISES,
SO WE'RE GOING TO CHECK INTO IT.

ALL WE'RE TRYING TO DO
IS PREVENT

ANY DAMAGE AT ALL TO THE CABLES.

ANYTIME IT DOES HAPPEN,
WE HAVE TO FIX IT.

OTHERWISE THEY WON'T
ACCEPT IT AS IS.

YOU KNOW, IT HAS TO BE RIGHT.

TWO STRANDS ARE
SCRAPING AGAIN

AND WE'VE GOT ONE
WEDGE THAT'S POPPED OUT.

SAME PROBLEM AS USUAL.

IT'S BEEN A
REOCCURRING PROBLEM

THAT WE HAD LAST TIME.

IF ONE OF THE CABLES HAS SLIPPED
AND IS NOT GRIPPING PROPERLY

ALL OF A SUDDEN,
THE LOADS ARE TRANSFERRED

TO THE OTHER 45 CABLES

AND THAT'S NOT WHAT
THE DESIGNERS INTENDED.

SOMETIMES WE FIND

THAT THESE CABLES HAVE
EVIDENTLY SLIPPED SOMEWHAT

AND WHAT THE CREW
HAS FOUND OUT THERE IS

THAT SOME EXCESS EPOXY HAS
BUILT UP INSIDE THE WEDGES.

THIS PREVENTS THE TEETH
FROM GRIPPING

THROUGH THE EPOXY ON THE STRAND,
INTO THE STEEL OF THE STRAND.

THE IMMEDIATE REMEDY IS

TO REPLACE THEM WITH WEDGES
THAT HAVE GOOD, CLEAN TEETH

THAT WILL AGAIN BITE
THROUGH THE EPOXY

AND INTO THE STEEL OF THE CABLE.

THIS IS A VERY EXPENSIVE
OPERATION FOR THE CONTRACTOR

AND IT COULD TAKE HIM
UP TO A DAY

TO REMEDY JUST ONE
SLIPPED STRAND.

BRING MY SCREWDRIVER AND MY...

Narrator:
IT COSTS ALMOST $1,000 AN HOUR
IN WAGES, EQUIPMENT AND OVERHEAD

JUST TO GET A NEW WEDGE ON
AND RETHREAD THE CABLES.

LATER, ON THE OTHER SIDE
OF THE DECK

THERE'S ANOTHER PROBLEM,
WHICH HAS THE CREW MYSTIFIED.

THE CABLES HAVE GOTTEN STUCK
IN THE RAM

BUT THIS TIME
THE CULPRIT ISN'T A WEDGE.

ONCE AGAIN, THE ENDS MAY HAVE
TO BE CUT AND RETHREADED.

Jackson:
IF WE COULD GET ANOTHER...

FIVE INCHES OF PULL

WE COULD EXPOSE THE WHOLE THING
AND GET TO IT.

THAT'S WHAT
I'D LIKE TO DO.

YOU WANT TO HOLD THAT?

WELL, THAT'S A PIECE
OF THE SAME PLASTIC

THAT'S THIS, UH,
SPACERS.

I IMAGINE A PIECE
MIGHT HAVE BROKE OFF

OR MIGHT EVEN HAVE
GOT PLACED IN THERE
ON PURPOSE

BY SOMEONE IN
THE CABLE YARD

TO HOLD IT IN PLACE,
I DON'T KNOW.

BUT IT DEFINITELY
DOESN'T BELONG
WHERE IT'S AT.

FOREIGN OBJECT,
PROBABLY FROM, UH...

IT AIN'T MOVING
AT ALL?

FROM SOMEWHERE...

FOREIGN.

HERE IT COMES, BABY.

LET ME SEE IT.

PIECE OF WIRE TIE.

IT'S A PIECE OF A PLASTIC TIE

THAT THEY USE TO PUT
AROUND THESE STRANDS.

IT GOT DOWN IN BETWEEN.

I THINK THAT CAUSED
OUR WHOLE PROBLEM.

49-CENT PIECE, BUDDY

SCREWING UP A THOUSAND DOLLARS'
WORTH OF CABLES.

Narrator:
IT'S NOW JANUARY

AND THE CREW HAS SHIFTED
ITS ATTENTION

BACK TO THE TOP OF THE TOWER

WHERE THE WIND IS MAKING
ITS PRESENCE FELT.

IT'S DANGEROUS ENOUGH FOR
THE CREW 300 FEET IN THE AIR

BUT HOW ABOUT THE BRIDGE?

THE ELEMENTS SOMETIMES SEEM TO
TOY WITH IT, SHAKING IT AT WILL.

ANYONE CAN BUILD A BRIDGE
THAT WILL CARRY A GIVEN LOADING.

BUT IF YOU LOOK AT IT

THE WAY SOME OF THOSE OF US
IN CONSTRUCTION LOOK AT IT

IT TAKES A REAL CRAFTSMAN TO
BUILD A BRIDGE THAT WILL, UH...

THAT WILL JUST BARELY CARRY IT.

Narrator:
THE BRIDGE IS NOW
AT ITS MOST VULNERABLE STAGE.

ITS 600-FOOT CANTILEVERS
ARE LIKE KITES IN THE WIND.

Man:
THERE ARE DIFFERENT THEORIES

AS FAR AS HOW MUCH WIND
THE BRIDGE CAN WITHSTAND.

YOU HAVE CABLE THAT CAN FREELY
MOVE ACROSS THE PYLON HEAD.

THE STRAND ACTUALLY FLOWS
THROUGH THE PIPE

AND IF YOU GET
AN OUT-OF-BALANCE FORCE

THE STRAND COULD SLIP
THROUGH THE PIPE

CAUSING THE WHOLE BRIDGE
TO ROCK.

IT'D BE VERY DISASTROUS

SOMETHING WE DON'T
EVEN WANT TO THINK ABOUT.

Narrator:
NO ONE WILL REALLY
SLEEP WELL AT NIGHT

UNTIL THE GAPS
IN THE BRIDGE ARE CLOSED.

THE FIRST GAP

BETWEEN THE MISSOURI APPROACH
AND THE MAIN SPAN

IS 35 FEET WIDE.

ONE DOWN, ONE TO GO.

THE SECOND GAP IS IN THE MIDDLE
OF THE MAIN SPAN.

WHEN IT'S FILLED, THE STRUCTURE
WILL TRULY BECOME A BRIDGE.

AFTER TWO YEARS OF WORK,
A CREW OF 40 PREPARES

TO JOIN BOTH HALVES
OF THE BRIDGE TOGETHER.

BUT WILL THEY FIT PERFECTLY
WHEN THE LAST PIECE IS ADDED?

Man:
The diagonal temporary strut
is down.

Narrator:
A SURVEYOR HAS BEEN CHECKING
THE POSITION OF THE TWO ENDS

SINCE 4:30 A.M.

HEY, TIMMY, LET'S DO THIS SIDE!

Man:
IT, UH... CAN MOVE
UP TO TWO INCHES

THIS TIME OF THE YEAR.

RIGHT THERE WILL BE FINE.

Man:
IN THE SUMMERTIME, WHEN
RADIATION FROM THE SUN GETS ON

IT MAY MOVE
THREE OR FOUR INCHES EASILY.

THAT'S UP AND DOWN.

IT ALSO MOVES FROM SIDE TO SIDE
UNTIL IT GETS CONNECTED THERE

BECAUSE IT'S LIKE A... IT'S
TWO SEPARATE ENTITIES RIGHT NOW

THAT CAN SWING BACK AND FORTH.

THE BRIDGE THIS MORNING
IS IN GOOD SHAPE.

LAST WEEK WE ADJUSTED ALL THE
CABLES ON THAT PYLON OVER THERE

AND THIS WEEK
WE'VE BEEN ADJUSTING THESE

AND NOW WE HAVE TO MAKE SURE,
AT A CERTAIN TEMPERATURE

THAT THEY'RE
AT THE EXACT SAME ELEVATION.

WE ALSO HAVE BEEN MONITORING
THE DISTANCE IN BETWEEN

BECAUSE THEY HAD TO CUT
THAT PIECE SPECIAL TO FIT THERE

AND IT'S CUT
TO BE FIT AT 68 DEGREES...

THAT'S THE MEAN TEMPERATURE.

THEY'RE RIGHT NOW AT 68, SO
IT'S ALMOST PERFECT TO SET IT.

Narrator:
THE CREW IS IN A RACE
WITH THE SUN

TO GET THE LAST PIECE INTO PLACE

BEFORE IT OR THE BRIDGE
HEATS UP AND EXPANDS.

OKAY, UH, PAUL,
BRING IT DOWN EASY.

Narrator:
WHEN THE GIRDER IS FINALLY
IN POSITION BENEATH THE GAP

THE CRANES BRING IT UP SLOWLY.

MUCH TO EVERYONE'S RELIEF,
THE GIRDER FITS IN PLACE.

BUT THE BOLT HOLES WILL HAVE
TO BE LINED UP IN TIME

BEFORE THE STEEL EXPANDS.

EVEN A COUPLE
OF DEGREES' DIFFERENCE

COULD MAKE IT IMPOSSIBLE.

AT 12:00 NOON, SUCCESS AT LAST.

NOW FOR THE FIRST TIME,
THE BRIDGE IS WHOLE

SPANNING THE RIVER
FROM ILLINOIS TO MISSOURI

JUST A FEW MILES FROM WHERE
LEWIS AND CLARK ONCE CROSSED.

WHEN THE LAST
CONCRETE PANELS GO IN

EARL DOERR CAN'T RESIST
A SMALL BOAST.

NO CONSTRUCTION PROJECT
IS PROBLEM-FREE

BUT ONE THING ABOUT THIS
STRUCTURE, FOR THE SIZE OF IT

AND FOR THE DOLLAR COST,
WHICH IS RIGHT AT $85 MILLION

THERE HAVEN'T BEEN ANY MAJOR
PROBLEMS THAT WE COULDN'T SOLVE.

MY BOSS, DALE KHLOR,
THE DISTRICT ENGINEER

HE SAID THIS COULD WELL BE
THE FIRST BRIDGE

BUILT ACROSS THE MISSISSIPPI
ON BUDGET AND ON TIME.

Narrator:
LITTLE DOES EARL DOERR KNOW
THAT THE RIVER IS LISTENING.

IN JUNE, STORM CLOUDS GATHER
OVER THE BRIDGE.

THE RAIN BEGINS
AND DOESN'T STOP.

THE RIVER RUNS FASTER AND FASTER

FUELED BY THE STORMS
THAT SWEEP IN FROM THE WEST.

ONLY TWO MILES FROM THE BRIDGE,
THE RIVER RISES 15 FEET.

PEOPLE ARE USED TO FLOODS HERE,
BUT THIS IS A DELUGE.

THERE'S A GROWING SENSE
OF HELPLESSNESS.

THE NEIGHBORING TOWN OF GRAFTON
IS OVERCOME.

DOWNRIVER IN ALTON,
A NEW LEVEE IS HASTILY BUILT.

SANDBAGS ARE FILLED
BY HUNDREDS OF VOLUNTEERS...

ADULTS AND CHILDREN ALIKE...
DAY AND NIGHT.

THE LEVEE IS SET BACK ABOUT
200 YARDS FROM THE RIVERBANK.

IT'S ALTON'S VERSION
OF THE MAGINOT LINE...

THE LAST BARRIER
AGAINST THE RISING WATERS.

BY THE MIDDLE OF JULY

IT'S EIGHT FEET HIGH
AND 1,000 FEET LONG.

EVERYTHING ON THE RIVER SIDE OF
THE LEVEE IS GIVEN UP FOR LOST.

THE RIVER IS SO HIGH NOW, THE
MISSOURI APPROACH IS IN DANGER.

ITS CONSTRUCTION SITE
IS ALREADY UNDERWATER.

IT CAN ONLY BE REACHED BY BOAT

BACK BEHIND ME
YOU COULD SEE

WHAT WAS OR I GUESS
STILL IS OUR OFFICE.

THE WALLS ARE BUCKLED
INSIDE THE TRAILER

AND THE WATER IS UP
OVER THE SHELVES IN THERE

AND IT'S GETTING
INTO THE FURNITURE.

THE FILE CABINETS AND THE DESKS
WILL BE FULL OF SOOT AND SEWAGE

AND EVERYTHING
THAT'S IN THE WATER...

SNAKES, RATS,
ALL THOSE GOOD THINGS.

Narrator:
GETTING A FEW PARTS
OUT OF THE SUPPLY TRAILER

REQUIRES A MAJOR EFFORT.

Man:
Come in, Andy.

YEAH, STEVIE.

Have you got all the hardware
and everything out of there

from the, uh... the drain?

YEAH, ALL THE DRAIN HARDWARE
IS UP ABOVE.

Ten-four.

ALL RIGHT,
YOU DON'T NEED
ANYTHING ELSE, HUH?

YOU NEED ANY
HELP THERE?

NO, I GOT TO GET TWO MORE.

Ten-four, Andy... here I come.

OKAY.

Narrator:
IRONICALLY, THE OLD BRIDGE
IS NOW THE ONLY ONE OPEN

FOR 20 MILES TO THE SOUTH
AND 70 MILES TO THE NORTH.

IN A DESPERATE EFFORT
TO KEEP IT OPEN

THE ROADBED IS RAISED
BY SEVERAL FEET.

SLOWER! SLOW, SLOW!

COME ON, COME ON, SLOWER!

Narrator:
TRUCKLOADS OF GRAVEL
ARE RUSHED TO THE SITE.

ONE-WAY TRAFFIC!

Narrator:
LONG MALIGNED AS A BOTTLENECK

THE OLD BRIDGE HAS BECOME
ALTON'S SAVIOR.

BUT THE NEWS GROWS WORSE
EACH DAY.

THE FLOOD IS BEING CALLED
THE WORST IN 500 YEARS.

THOUSANDS OF HOUSES ARE LOST.

PROPERTY DAMAGE IS
IN THE BILLIONS...

FROM MINNESOTA TO KENTUCKY,
800 MILES OF DEVASTATION.

MORE THAN 50 PEOPLE
WILL LOSE THEIR LIVES.

EVERYONE WHO CAN
HEADS FOR HIGHER GROUND

BUT THE RIVER IS
RIGHT BEHIND THEM.

IN ALTON, ALL THE VALIANT
EFFORTS ARE IN VAIN.

WATER POURS THROUGH
UNDERGROUND UTILITY TUNNELS

AND FLOODS THE STREETS
BEHIND THE LEVEE.

LIKE THE ORIGINAL MAGINOT LINE,
IT IS OUTFLANKED WITH EASE.

DOWNTOWN ALTON IS A DISASTER

AND SO IS THE CONSTRUCTION
SCHEDULE FOR THE BRIDGE.

WELL, WE'RE SITTING
ON THE APPROACH TO...

THE MISSOURI APPROACH
TO THE CLARK BRIDGE

AND AS YOU CAN SEE,
EVERYTHING'S FLOODED...

BOTH THE HIGHWAY 67, WHICH WAS
OUR ACCESS TO THE JOB SITE

AS WELL AS THE NEW HIGHWAY 67,
WHICH IS YET TO BE BUILT.

BOTH ARE FLOODED

SO WE HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO ACCESS
TO THE PROJECT.

THE IMPACT ON US
HAS BEEN SUBSTANTIAL...

NO WORK IS GOING ON, YET OUR
OVERHEAD CONTINUES TO GO ON.

FROM A MORE
HUMANISTIC STANDPOINT

THE FLOOD HAS PUT SOME 60
OR 70 PEOPLE OUT OF WORK.

SO, NEEDLESS TO SAY, THAT HURTS.

Narrator:
THE MAIN SPAN IS ALSO A MESS.

THE CREW CAN HARDLY DO ANY WORK

AND THERE IS AN EERIE STILLNESS
AT THE SITE.

THEY ARE SO CLOSE TO FINISHING
AND YET TIME IS RUNNING OUT.

IF THEY CAN'T FINISH
BEFORE WINTER

THEY COULD BE SHUT DOWN
UNTIL SPRING.

IT'S NOT UNTIL MID-SEPTEMBER
THAT THE WATERS FINALLY RECEDE.

ALTON WILL BE CLEANING UP
FOR MONTHS.

THE LOSSES IN BUSINESS
AND PROPERTY ARE IMMENSE.

AND AS THE TOWN PONDERS
ITS ECONOMIC FUTURE

THE COMPLETION OF THE BRIDGE
TAKES ON EVEN GREATER URGENCY.

IN MID-SEPTEMBER,
CONSTRUCTION RESUMES

ON THE ILLINOIS APPROACH
AT MAXIMUM SPEED.

THE CREW WORKS 16-HOUR DAYS

GETTING THE ROAD DECK READY
FOR ITS FINAL COAT OF CONCRETE.

THEY BEGIN BEFORE DAWN
ON THE DAY OF THE POUR.

THE CONCRETE THE BE
LAYING DOWN IS A SPECIAL TYPE

THAT CAN'T BE USED
IF ITS TEMPERATURE RISES

ABOVE 90 DEGREES.

BUT AT DAWN, THE FORECAST CALLS
FOR AN UNSEASONABLY HOT DAY...

HOT ENOUGH TO RUIN THE POUR.

AND IF THAT WEREN'T ENOUGH

THERE'S TROUBLE
ON THE OLD BRIDGE

WHICH THE CONCRETE TRUCKS
HAVE TO CROSS.

A DISTRAUGHT FORMER MENTAL
PATIENT IS THREATENING TO JUMP.

TRAFFIC IS BACKED UP FOR MILES
WHILE THE POLICE TALK HIM DOWN.

THE CONCRETE TRUCKS
ARE HOPELESSLY STUCK.

THEIR LOADS ARE RUINED.

THE POUR WILL HAVE
TO BE CANCELED.

Man:
Ten-four.

Narrator:
NEXT MORNING,
THE CREW TRIES AGAIN

BUT THE TEMPERATURE THREATENS
TO BE EVEN HIGHER.

THE FIRST LOAD OF CONCRETE
ARRIVES AT 4:00 A.M.

IN THE EARLY MORNING, THE FLOW
OF WORK IS SMOOTH AND STEADY

BUT BY THE AFTERNOON,
THE CREW IS FEELING THE STRAIN.

Doerr:
AIR TEMPERATURE IS GETTING CLOSE
TO 95 DEGREES RIGHT NOW

AND THEY'RE STARTING
TO SHOW SOME WEAR AND TEAR.

WE'VE GOT ABOUT 250 FEET OF
CONCRETE OUT ON THE DECK SO FAR.

ABOUT NOON,
WE'RE A LITTLE CONCERNED

OUR CONCRETE TEMPERATURES
WERE GETTING KIND OF HIGH.

THEY WERE APPROACHING
90 DEGREES, WHICH IS OUR LIMIT.

HOWEVER THE CONCRETE PLANT
ADDED SOME MORE ICE

AND WE WERE ABLE TO GET THE MIX
TEMPERATURE DOWN CONSIDERABLY.

SO WE'RE GOING
TO CONTINUE POURING

TILL ABOUT 3:00 THIS AFTERNOON.

Man:
FEET ARE ON FIRE.

LOOK LIKE A RACCOON
WHEN I GO HOME.

Man:
WOULD YOU RATHER
BE HOT OR COLD?

I'D RATHER BE COLD.

Doerr:
MOST OF THESE FELLOWS
GOT OUT OF BED

ABOUT 3:00 IN THE MORNING.

THEY WERE ON THE JOB
ANYWHERE FROM 4:00 TO 5:00.

WE'VE BEEN POURING CONCRETE
SINCE 6:00

AND ABOUT 3:00
THEY'LL ALL BE BEAT.

Narrator:
EVERYONE IS FEELING
THE PRESSURE.

THE CONTRACTORS COULD FACE
A PENALTY OF $4,000 A DAY

IF THEY DON'T FINISH
BY DECEMBER 21.

Webb:
THE FOREMEN,
THE VARIOUS SUPERINTENDENTS

THEY'RE HERE AROUND 6:00
IN THE MORNING

SOMETIMES EVEN AS EARLY
AS 4:00 IN THE MORNING.

IT'S VERY, VERY LONG DAYS.

WE HAD ORIGINALLY FIGURED

THAT WE SHOULD BE TOTALLY
COMPLETED WITH THIS JOB...

EVERYTHING... THIS PAST SUMMER.

BUT YOU DON'T EXPECT
A 500-YEAR FLOOD.

THERE'S NO WAY
OF ANTICIPATING THAT.

YOU DON'T EXPECT A YEAR

WITH TWICE OR MORE THAN TWICE
THE NORMAL RAINFALL.

WE DIDN'T EXPECT SUNKEN BARGES.

THERE'S SEVERAL THINGS
WE DIDN'T EXPECT.

YOU DON'T MAKE UP FOR IT.

A JOB THAT WAS INTENDED TO BE
A NORMAL BUSINESS VENTURE

WITH AN APPROPRIATE AMOUNT
OF PROFIT

TURNS OUT TO BE, AT BEST,
A NONPROFIT OPERATION.

I GUESS YOU COULD SAY IT STARTS
TO MAKE AN OLD MAN OUT OF YOU.

UH... THERE ARE DAYS
WHEN I FEEL LIKE I'VE, UH...

THAT THIS WAS... I'M NOT SO SURE
I'D WANT TO TRY THIS AGAIN.

Narrator:
THERE ARE JUST 2½ MONTHS
TO GO NOW.

1½ MONTHS.

ONE MONTH.

ONLY A SMALL CREW IS LEFT

WORKING 12, 16 HOURS A DAY
IN BITTER COLD.

FINALLY, ON JANUARY 4

AFTER NEARLY FOUR YEARS
OF CONSTRUCTION

THE CREW TAKES ONE LAST WALK
ACROSS THE BRIDGE.

AND NOW IT'S ALTON'S TURN.

Reporter:
We've got a brand-new
structure here

that nobody's crossed over yet

but that will take place
at 3:00 in the afternoon.

WE'RE BROADCASTING
FROM THE CLARK BRIDGE...

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CLARK
BRIDGE, AS A MATTER OF FACT.

IT'S A NIPPY MORNING, BUT...

Man 1:
WE'LL HANG OUT
AT THE BOTTOM OF...

Man 2:
A BRAND-NEW BRIDGE,
AND WHAT IT MEANS TO US TODAY

IS THE SAME THING IT MEANT
68 YEARS AGO

WHEN THE OLD BRIDGE WAS BUILT.

Narrator:
FOR THE TOWN

IT'S A COMBINATION OF CHRISTMAS
AND THE FOURTH OF JULY

IN TEN-DEGREE WEATHER.

Woman:
IF ANYBODY KNOWS
THE OTHER BRIDGE

IT'S KIND OF BREAKING APART

AND IT'S TIME FOR IT TO REST
AND THIS ONE TO START ANEW.

THE OTHER ONE IS REALLY BAD.

THERE'S A LOT OF CURVES,
AND VERY NARROW.

NOW MAYBE ALTON WILL GROW.

IT'S BEAUTIFUL.

I'VE NEVER SEEN A CABLE BRIDGE
OR BEEN CLOSE TO ONE.

I CAN'T IMAGINE HOW THEY GOT
THESE GIANT CABLES

THROUGH THE TOP UP THERE.

I WOULD HAVE LIKED
TO BE HERE TO SEE THAT.

Woman:
NOT VERY OFTEN YOU SEE
A BRIDGE BEING OPENED.

WE WANTED TO SEE IT UP CLOSE

GET OUR OWN LITTLE PART
OF HISTORY.

WE'RE KIND OF BRAVE
AND KIND OF FOOLISH, I GUESS.

SHE WAS BORN THIS YEAR
SO I WANTED HER TO REMEMBER

THAT THE BRIDGE WAS BUILT
IN THE SAME YEAR.

TODAY, EACH OF YOU MARK
YOUR PLACE IN HISTORY

BY BEING HERE FOR THE DEDICATION
OF THE NEW CLARK BRIDGE.

THANKS FOR COMING.

Narrator:
EVEN WITH BRIDGES, THE CYCLE OF
LIFE AND DEATH ASSERTS ITSELF.

AS MUCH AS THE PEOPLE
OF ALTON COMPLAINED

ABOUT THE OLD CLARK BRIDGE

THEY NEED TO SAY GOOD-BYE
BEFORE IT'S GONE.

Man:
I DO REMEMBER IT WAS IN THE YEAR
WHEN THE MODEL "A" COME OUT

BECAUSE MY DADDY
JUST GOT A NEW '28 FORD

AND HE SAID HE WAS GOING
TO TRY IT OVER THE BRIDGE.

THAT WAS IN '28...

1928.

Narrator:
AND NOW, ONCE AGAIN

THERE IS ONLY ONE BRIDGE
ACROSS THE RIVER AT ALTON.

BUT EVEN THE MEN AND WOMEN

WHO GAVE SO MUCH OF THEMSELVES
TO BUILD IT

KNOW IT CANNOT LAST FOREVER.

WE'D LIKE TO THINK
THAT OUR, UH... OUR...

THE PEOPLE FOLLOWING US THINK

"MY GOSH, THEY REALLY DID
KNOW WHAT THEY WERE DOING."

WE'D ALSO LIKE TO THINK
OUR GRANDCHILDREN...

PERHAPS OUR
GREAT-GRANDCHILDREN...

SPEND A GOOD DEAL OF THE TIME
SWEARING AT US

WHEN THEY COME BACK TO REPLACE
THIS AND TRY TO TEAR IT DOWN.

EVERYTHING THAT'S BUILT
COMES DOWN EVENTUALLY.

Narrator:
BUT UNTIL THE DAY
THE BRIDGE IS REPLACED...

MANY YEARS FROM NOW...

IT WILL STAND AS A MONUMENT
TO THE PEOPLE WHO BUILT IT

AND A WITNESS TO THE RIVER'S
NEVER-ENDING JOURNEY.

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