Eads Bridge Rehabilitation Celebrated

(Photo courtesy of Metro transit)

Hundreds of people gathered with representatives of Bi-State Development (BSD) and Metro transit, the Federal Transit Administration, and elected and civic leaders from Illinois and Missouri on the top deck of the Eads Bridge in St. Louis last week to celebrate the completion of the first full-scale rehabilitation of this 142-year-old steel icon.

In his opening remarks, John Nations, president and CEO of Bi-State Development, which co-owns the bridge with the City of St. Louis, called attention to the significance of the project.

“At the original dedication of the Eads Bridge on July 4, 1874, James B. Eads declared that the bridge would endure, just so long as it continues to be useful to the people who come after us,” said Nations. “He could scarcely have imagined that after 142 years of changes in society, in our region, in our landscapes and in our patterns of travel and movement, his bridge would still have a critically useful function for our region, our states and our country.”

When completed the Eads Bridge was the longest arch bridge in the world, with an overall length of 6,442 ft. It represents a masterpiece of engineering for its time and is notable for a number of construction firsts. It was the first bridge, and one of the first structures in the country of any kind, to use steel as a primary construction component. It was also one of the earliest major bridge to cross the Mississippi River and the first with arch spans of 500 ft. It was the first bridge to use cantilevered construction, avoiding falsework that would hinder river traffic, and first in the U.S. to use the pneumatic caisson for deep underwater pier construction.

After almost a century-and-a-half of use, the $48 million, comprehensive rehabilitation project was necessary to extend the life of the bridge for another 75 years so it can continue to carry vehicles, pedestrians and MetroLink trains across the river, providing a critical link between downtown St. Louis, Mo., and East St. Louis, Ill., stated Metro transit. It is the only connection for MetroLink between the two states, carrying 300 MetroLink trains each day.

The four-year rehabilitation project included replacing aging support steel, sand blasting and painting the entire superstructure, and repairing the MetroLink track system. MetroLink maintained service in both directions on one track while working on the other. The tracks interlock, meaning trains can cross from one to the other.

More highlights from last week’s celebration can be found on Metro transit’s blog site here. For more about the bridge, see the article “The Eads Bridge: A Revolution in Bridge Building” from our March 2011 issue.