The City of St. Louis desired to break a long standing monopoly by the Terminal Railroad Association on the crossings of the Mississippi River at St. Louis. The TRRA owned both the Merchants and Eads Bridge; the two major routes across the river.
The project would be dubbed the "Free Bridge", and was approved in late June of that year. The vote to build the 3.5 million dollar bridge for railroads and vehicles was seen as a populist movement.
By July of 1907, construction on the west end of the bridge would begin. Construction work would reach the river in 1909, but grind to a halt due to a lack of funds.
Once the funds were secured, the bridge was ready for road use in 1912; except for the Illinois Approaches. The lengthy ramp connecting to 10th Street in East St. Louis, Illinois would not be completed until 1917.
On January 20th, 1917; the Free Bridge would be opened to traffic. This came nearly 10 years after construction first started. However, the railroad deck would not yet be complete.
In may of 1918, the bridge would be renamed the Municipal Bridge; and turned over to a new commission.
By 1926, the original United States Highway System would be dedicated. This bridge became a gateway to the west; carrying US Highway 66 and US Highway 460; along with other roads.
In 1928, the City of St. Louis made a number of improvements to entice the railroads to use the bridge. One such improvement was creating a long network of viaducts approaching the bridge. A total of five individual viaducts connected to the bridge; three on the Illinois Side and two on the Missouri Side.
The first train ran over the bridge in late 1928. By 1932, tolls were added to the bridge as auto traffic increased and the bridge needed more improvements. The Free Bridge was free no more.
In 1942, the bridge was renamed the MacArthur Bridge; after General Douglas MacArthur, who was serving in World War II at the time.
Despite the populist movement that led to the construction of the bridge, a new bridge opened just upstream in 1967. This new bridge would carry US-66, US-40, I-64, I-55 and I-70. This would essentially eradicate all traffic on the MacArthur Bridge.
By 1981, the bridge was in need of a nearly 6 million dollar repair. The city would close it to automobile traffic in 1981.
Since 1981, the automobile deck has gradually been removed. Since 2014, nearly all the approaches have been removed and the entire deck on the main spans has been removed.
Despite this, the bridge continues to be a source of heavy railroad traffic. In an ironic twist of fate; a bridge designed to avoid railroad monopolies was traded with the TRRA in 1989 for the Eads Bridge.
Today, the bridge continues to be one of the most used bridges across the Mississippi River.
This bridge is one of the shorter viaducts that approach the famed MacArthur Bridge, but this does not mean it is any less.
This structure was completed in 1928 to allow railroad access to the bridge. It contains a single truss span, along with numerous deck girder approach spans.
These spans are set onto concrete and steel substructures.
While the bridge is double tracked for its entire length, the main span happens to be single tracked. A single 7-Panel riveted Pratt Through Truss crosses over Broadway. The second track crosses on a large girder span.
The reasoning for this quite unusual design is unknown. The remaining spans are constructed of simple Deck Plate Girder spans set onto a viaduct like trestle.
The viaduct does have Viaduct #3, which splits and heads south near the east end of this structure.
The author has ranked the bridge as moderately significant, due to the newer age and the much less unique structure than its counterpart in East Saint Louis (Viaduct #2).
The photo above is looking at the main span.
|Main Spans||MacArthur Bridge|
|Illinois Approaches||MacArthur Approach Viaduct #2||MacArthur Approach Viaduct #4||MacArthur Approach Viaduct #5|
|Missouri Approaches||MacArthur Approach Viaduct #3|