By ALAN J. ORTBALS
The Terminal Railroad Association is preparing to make major improvements to both the MacArthur Bridge and the Merchants Bridge to make St. Louis a much more attractive crossing point for rail carriers.
The TRA recently was approved for a $7.1 million grant under the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement program for removal of the overhead truss on the rail bridge over Broadway south of Busch Stadium. The $14.2 million project will remove the truss, reinforce the substructure and, in so doing, remove a serious impediment to moving large items by rail across the MacArthur Bridge
“The truss system creates a limitation as to the height and width of freight that span can handle,” said Asim Raza, TRA’s Chief Legal Officer and Director of Corporate Affairs. “This project will allow for the transport of high and/or wide loads and eliminate the need for some of the Class 1 railroads to reroute in excess of 300 miles to get around St. Louis.”
Work is expected to take place in 2020.
While still in the permitting process, Raza said he expects work to begin on the renovation of the Merchants Bridge sometime in the fall of this year. The $172 million project will encase each of the bridge’s stone piers in concrete to make them capable of withstanding an earthquake. Then, each of the spans will be replaced over a four-year period. The project has been designed to minimize the impact on bridge traffic. Each of the spans will be built off site, moved into place by barge and hoisted into place by crane. Raza said there would only be only be about 30 days out of four years that the bridge would be closed to traffic.
The spans for the westernmost stretch are currently under construction and the TRA has applied for an INFRA (Infrastructure for Rebuilding America) grant on the remaining parts of the bridge which is the center span and the eastern most span as well as the East approach.
Raza said that the U.S. Department of Transportation is predicting a 40 percent increase in rail traffic by 2040 and these two projects will position St. Louis as an attractive route for that increased traffic.
By ALAN J. ORTBALS