Thousands Celebrate Opening Of The New Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge

Wednesday February 12, 2014

By Mark

The “Stan Span” across the Mississippi River was officially opened to vehicular traffic last Sunday following a ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday afternoon and a lighting ceremony Saturday night.

The long-awaited new bridge comes almost 50 years after the opening of the Poplar Street, the last bridge built across the Mississippi in downtown St. Louis. In addition, motorists can cross the Mississippi at St. Louis on three other bridges--the historic Eads Bridge (opened in 1874), the Martin Luther King Bridge (formerly known as the Veterans Bridge) and the McKinley Bridge.

Motorists coming from Illinois will be able to avoid the downtown congestion they experience on the Poplar Street Bridge (PSB), especially during rush hour, by using the new bridge. Officials estimate the new bridge will take up to 20,000 vehicles off the Poplar Street Bridge easing traffic onto downtown streets. Motorists coming from the west on I-70 will find it easier to access downtown as well.

And traffic problems will be eased even further in the next couple of years when ramps to the Poplar Street Bridge from I-55 and I-44 are improved and the so-called “park over the highway” connecting the Gateway Arch grounds to the city is completed. Officials estimate another 20,000 vehicles will come off the PSB at that time.

The “Stan Span” is four lanes wide, two in each direction, with enough room to re-stripe it to three lanes in each direction down the road.

The new bridge’s main span--the portion of the bridge between the two towers--is 15,000 feet long making it the third longest cable-stayed bridge in the United States. The other two are the John J. Audubon at 1,581 feet in south central Louisiana and the Arther Ravenal Jr. in Charleston, SC, at 1,545 feet. A cable-stayed bridge has one or more towers from which cables support the bridge deck.

The distinctive bridge with its gleaming towers and cables--a sparkling new addition to the St. Louis skyline--is sure to become an icon that will symbolize the city almost as much as the Gateway Arch. During the ceremony on Saturday that included comments from Illinois and Missouri officials as well as U. S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon quipped that the new bridge “will make an easier trip for Cardinal fans to Chicago when we beat the Cubs. . .or the White Sox.”

Speaker after speaker heralded the bridge as a boon to the region’s economy and lauded the selection of the “Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge” as the name of the new structure. Musial, the most beloved player in St. Louis Cardinal history, was an outfielder and first baseman on the St. Louis Cardinals for 22 seasons, from 1941 through 1963. Known for his modesty and good sportsmanship, Musial was a World War II Navy veteran.

Several members of the Musial family attended the event.

Making the bridge ceremony a truly “St. Louis” experience were appearances by Fredbird, the Cardinals’ mascot, and the Anheuser Busch Clydesdales which decades ago became synonymous with the Gateway City.  The Clydesdales pulling a wagon of filled with Musial relatives led a parade making a ceremonial first crossing of the “Stan Span.”

Thousands of people braved frigid temperatures for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to walk, run or bike across the new bridge--and to drink in breath-taking views of the St. Louis skyline and the Mississippi River.

Earlier that morning almost 3,000 people participated in a 6K run through downtown and across the new bridge to Illinois and back while others opted for a six-mile time trial bike race, also held in part on the bridge.

During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Illinois Dept. of Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider commented that at the bridge lighting the night before, a beautiful bald eagle flew over the structure.

“To me this was a sign that this bridge will stand as a monument and a testament to all the men and women who have fought hard for our nation and so (it’s) appropriate that this bridge is the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge,” she said.

Some interesting facts about the Mississippi River bridge project:

  • From end to end, the bridge is 2,800 feet long
  • The total project cost is $640 million, the equivalent to one dollar bills laid end to end circling the equator two and a half times.
  • The cable stayed portion of the bridge is just over four football fields in length.
  • The new bridge is 400 feet tall, two-thirds the height of the Gateway Arch.

The Stan Span by the numbers:

  • 8 million pounds of reinforcing steel, the equivalent to the weight of 363 school buses in the cable-stayed portion of the bridge
  • 2 million pounds of reinforcing steel in each foundation block
  • 14,000 tons of steel in the entire bridge
  • 8,000 cubic yards of concrete in each tower--enough to fill 1,000 concrete trucks.
  • 2200 tons of reinforcing steel in each tower
  • 2,000 people attended public tours of the bridge over three years as it was being constructed
  • 1500 feet between the two towers on the bridge
  • 400 feet, the height the towers are above the river
  • 136 conduits on the bridge, each one containing between 21 and 73 strands of cable to hold the bridge up. The conduits vary in length from 218 to 800 feet.
  • 88 feet, the width of the bridge
  • 43 hours, the time it took to make the longest continuous concrete pour
  • 37 construction projects awarded to complete the new Mississippi River Bridge project
  • 32  projects awarded in Illinois
  • 5 projects awarded in Missouri
  • 3 online cameras on the construction site

Guest Blogger Kathie Sutin a freelance writer from St. Louis, Missouri contributed this blog.