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 massive viaduct bridge approaches the MacArthur Bridge on the east side, going through the city of East Saint Louis.
The approach viaduct is absolutely massive. It contains three large spans, along with numerous deck girder spans in between.
These massive spans are set onto steel bents, and supported by concrete footings. Viaduct #4 branches off on the west end of this viaduct, and Viaduct #5 branches off on the east side.
The main spans are truss spans. The first truss span is a large 10-panel pin connected Baltimore Half Through Truss. This span is unique, as half through trusses are rare spans. This span crosses the former Wabash yard, now Norfolk Southern.
The next truss crosses another TRRA line, on a 7-Panel Pratt Through Truss with pinned connections. This span is a typical truss span.
The third and final through truss span crosses a former Chicago & Alton Line. This span is a large 9-Panel pin connected Pennsylvania Through Truss.
The remaining spans are a significant number of deck girder spans which are set into a viaduct configuration. There are nearly 150 of these spans. Two main streets this bridge cross are 19th Street and IL-3.
Unfortunately, this bridge is set into an unsafe location. East Saint Louis is one of the most dangerous cities in America, and this bridge goes right through of the most notorious part of the town.
The bridge has been rated as highly significant by the author. The bridge represents a number of different truss spans, and engineering types. The length of the viaduct, nearly 2 miles only adds to the significance.
The photo above is looking west along the bridge, near truss #1. The photo below is a segment of viaduct near IL-3. The author hopes to get more photos in the near future.
The viaduct has been divided into 3 Segments:
Segment 1 runs from the MacArthur Bridge to Truss #1
Segment 2 runs from Truss #1 to Truss #3
Segment 3 runs from Truss #3 to the East End.
|Main Spans||MacArthur Bridge|
|Illinois Approaches||MacArthur Approach Viaduct #4||MacArthur Approach Viaduct #5|
|Missouri Approaches||MacArthur Approach Viaduct #1||MacArthur Approach Viaduct #3|
These Pictures Start at varying points in the Series