St. Louis Bridge Gets Major Rehab, Facelift After 142 Years Aided by Stimulus Funds
ST. LOUIS, MO Agencies in St. Louis, Missouri, just completed a four-year transportation project that used funds from the historic 2009 economic stimulus law to upgrade one of the most historic road-and-railway bridges in the country.
Backers of the $48 million rehabilitation of the iconic Eads Bridge - which first opened in 1874 in a dedication by President Ulysses Grant - said the project extends its life for another 75 years to carry vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians and passengers on Metrolink light rail trains across the Mississippi River between downtown St. Louis and East St. Louis, Illinois.
Hundreds of area residents gathered to celebrate the project's completion. They were joined by representatives of Bi-State Development, which co-owns the bridge with the city of St. Louis, Metro transit, the Federal Transit Administration, and officials from both Illinois and Missouri.
Federal funds covered 91 percent of the project cost, BSD said, including $27 million coming from American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds and $4.8 million from a federal grant to St. Louis. Local funds covered the non-federal portion.
Throughout the project, Metrolink continued running about 300 trains a day across the bridge, which spans a busy harbor with barge-pushing towboats and passenger vessels.
The Eads Bridge, named for designer and builder James Eads, was the world's longest when built, the first using all steel for its arched spans, the first to exclusively cantilever supports.
"It was also the first bridge in the United States to make use of pneumatic caissons in the construction of the piers, which were sunk to unprecedented depths," the guide said, and "was the first large bridge to span the Mississippi River and the first to carry railroad tracks."
Dedicated as a National Historic Landmark in 1964, the structure's use changed over time. It closed to trains in 1974 as Amtrak used a different bridge, and closed to motor vehicles in 1991 due to deterioration. But it reopened to rail traffic in 1993 with the first phase of MetroLink, the guide said, and vehicle traffic was restored in 2003. Now it supports all surface transportation modes.
While it underwent various types of repairs over time, the transit agency said the new project was the first extensive rehabilitation of the steel support structure in the bridge's history. St. Louis Public Radio said the project was first expected to begin in 2009, but was delayed by labor disputes between contractors and unions, and the project's rising price tag over time.
BSD also said 21st century crews working on a 19th century structure faced "a number of unknowns that could only be uncovered once the project team started to get to work." They had to deal with an unfamiliar alloy, reuse or fabricate handmade pieces from the 1870s, replace steel supports dating to the 1920s or older, and blast and repaint the entire superstructure.
"The MetroLink track system has also been upgraded, including rail, ties and the installation of new Overhead Conductor Rail, making Metro one of the first transit systems in the nation to use this state-of-the-art technology to power the trains more efficiently and reliably," BSD said.