Thousands walked above the icy Mississippi River Saturday as governors, senators and U.S. representatives from Illinois and Missouri cut the ribbon on the new Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge.
The $230 million, cable-stayed structure is the culmination of a decades-long effort to relieve congestion on the nearby Poplar Street and Martin Luther King Bridges.
Govs. Jay Nixon and Pat Quinn echoed many of the congressional delegates present in singling out former U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville. Costello was instrumental in securing federal funding that covered roughly 80 percent of the project.
“This is what we can accomplish when we come together, put our differences aside – political differences and regional differences aside – to better the transportation system for our region and for our country,” Costello said.
The structure is supported by two A-shaped towers: 400 feet tall and 1,500 feet apart.
Standing below a splay of steel support cables, Bill Garvey of St. Louis said he could not miss the rare opportunity to see the structure up close before it opens to regular vehicle traffic Sunday afternoon.
“I mean this is unbelievable. Stop and think about what they did – the weights and how they got them cables up there," Garvey said. "Try to move one of them cables much less string it up through that hole. Try to do that you know with a limited crew, with a limited crew!”
The bridge is designed to last about 100 years with minimal maintenance and part of the $700 million New Mississippi River Bridge project to divert I-70 north of downtown St. Louis.