One of the main routes connecting north and south St. Louis is open to traffic after two years of construction.
The Kingshighway Bridge just south of Interstate 44 closed in July 2015 so the 75-year-old structure could be rebuilt.
Commuters, residents and business owners celebrated the grand reopening Saturday by streaming across the bridge on foot, bicycle and golf cart before it opened to cars.
As he walked towards the newly reopened entrance to his car dealership, Don Brown said the traffic congestion around his business affected the number of customers stopping by.
“But sometimes you got to take a step back for progress, and we needed a new bridge. And we made it through," Brown said. "Looking forward to business going back to normal.”
Joyce and Allan Schomaker, who live nearby in The Hill neighborhood, crossed the bridge with their dog, Lulu Belle. They said they’re looking forward to seeing fewer cars pass by.
“Traffic on The Hill has really seen an upswing with the bridge being down, so I think that will also help the neighborhood get back to normal with normal traffic patterns,” Joyce Schomaker said.
Allan Schomaker said the reopened bridge will cut down on the cars speeding through their neighborhood.
“The problems with the traffic, you know, anybody who has to do a detour is normally going to faster," he said. "They don’t like to stop at stop signs, so they whiz by. But that’s behind us now. My whole motto is let’s move forward.”
Tower Grove South resident Amy Johnson will be glad not to have to detour through The Hill to get to work every day. She celebrated by doing gymnastics on the new pavement with her friend Traci Goldstein, and Goldstein’s 7-year-old daughter Dahlia Goldstein-Larocco.
Johnson and Dahlia celebrated with a yoga move particularly appropriate for the occasion.
“I did a bridge,” explained Dahlia after she and Johnson bent over upside down in the pose known as the bridge.
“We spend so much time in the city, and this has been a major obstacle of having to bob and weave off of Hampton,” Traci Goldstein said. “I did a cartwheel on the bridge because I’m so excited that the bridge is open.”
Before the ceremonial crossing, St. Louis politicians acknowledged the two years of headaches caused by the loss of one the city’s main transportation arteries.
“The traffic, congestion, delays and loss of business we’ve all experienced will shortly come to an end,” said Alderman Stephen Conway, who represents the 8th Ward on the east side of Kingshighway. “Thank you for your patience.”
Alderman Joseph Vollmer, who represents The Hill, said the construction company Kozeny Wagner did a “wonderful job” dealing with unforeseen difficulties.
“They were burdened with the fact that the Three Stooges were the planners of the old bridge, and nothing was marked underneath. That’s why this took a little longer to get these four lanes open,” Vollmer said.
Mayor Lyda Krewson pointed out that no local tax dollars went towards the bridge. The Federal Highway Administration paid most of the $21 million project. Union Pacific Railroad, which has tracks beneath the bridge, paid for the rest.
“This bridge, I’m told, was originally built in 1937. So we did get our money’s worth,” Krewson said.
The Kingshighway Bridge was originally slated to open in January, but weather and building complications caused delays.
The new bridge will eventually have three lanes in each direction, but for now four lanes are open to traffic. Sidewalk, lighting, and the final two lanes of the bridge are expected to be complete by the end of the summer.
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