Improved traffic flow and safer conditions for pedestrians who use the Grand Blvd. bridge are two of the benefits of the 15-month closure that will start at 5am on Monday, March 14th.
The 52-year-old crossing is structurally deficient, and in danger of being closed permanently, says the city's chief engineer, Rich Bradley.
The 15-month, $22 million project will make the bridge seismically sound. (Federal money is covering 80 percent of that cost, and the city is using capital improvement funds to cover the rest.) The new bridge will have wider sidewalks and a dedicated bike lane, and buses traveling Metro's busiest route will have a separate turn-out to drop off passengers. That will keep traffic flowing better even though the number of lanes will be reduced, Bradley says.
But just as important, Bradley says, are the aesthetic improvements. The bridge will have four towers that harken back to the original Grand bridge, built in the 1800s.
"It'll be a great tie to the Grand Center and St. Louis University area, the hospitals to the south," he says. "We’re doing a number of projects along the Grand corridor. We realize it’s a major north-south route in the city of St. Louis, it’s an economic development corridor."
The project won't come without some travel headaches. MetroLink trains will be able to keep running for all but two weekends (March 19th and 26th, when the major demolition work will be completed), but the bus routes will have to follow the detours, which will be Compton, Jefferson and Vandeventer.
But Metro spokeswoman Dianne Williams says new amenities will be worth the hassle.
"Two new elevators, a new staircase, we’ll have a well-lit plaza that leads to a better-lit platform. They’ll be a covered shelter on each side of the street which will give our customers a lot more protection as they wait," she says.
The bridge will close to traffic at 5am Monday, March 14th. Rich Bradley says he hopes to open it to traffic within 14 months.