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May 22, 2012

Metro Announces Major Project to Restore the Eads Bridge

Dianne Williams
Director of Communications

Metro today announced it will restore the historic Eads Bridge in what is the first extensive rehabilitation of the support structure of the bridge in its 138-year history. The work is needed to protect this national landmark and upgrade an important piece of the region’s $1.8 billion transit infrastructure so it can continue to serve future generations.

The total contract amount for the project is $36 million and is largely funded through $34 million in federal support, of that $25 million is from ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) funds. The City of St. Louis, which co-owns the bridge with Metro, contributed a $4.8 million federal grant toward completion of the project. Of the $36 million total, $2.4 million is from local funds.

The Eads Bridge, designed by James Buchanan Eads, was completed in 1874 and was the first steel structure bridge project in the United States. Now, after more than a century of use, it is in need of major repairs and a significant facelift. This structural rehabilitation project will replace support steel that dates to the 1880’s. As many as nine layers of paint and rust will be blasted off the bridge down to the bare metal, and then the bridge will be primed with a rust inhibitor, before the top coating is applied. Combined with regular maintenance painting, the anti-corrosion coating system should extend the life of the bridge another 50 years. After enduring trains crossing the bridge nearly 300 times daily and exposure to the elements for almost two decades, the MetroLink alignment that crosses the bridge will be upgraded with new rail and ties as part of this comprehensive project. Metro is committed to completing all of work by the fall of 2015.

“This project demonstrates the value our Agency brings as a regional builder, an employer of local construction trades, and an important economic engine bringing money, jobs and infrastructure improvements to the region,” noted John Nations, Metro President & CEO.

Metro obtained co-ownership of the Eads Bridge as part of the original MetroLink project. The bridge played a critical economic and structural role in the initial plans for the region’s light rail system. The City of St. Louis owns the vehicle deck of the bridge while Metro owns and maintains the rail deck and remaining bridge structure.

Today, MetroLink trains pass over the Eads Bridge, transporting customers to destinations on both sides of the Mississippi River. Because of important planning before actual bridge reconstruction work begins, MetroLink schedules will be largely unaffected by the construction work.

The general contractor for the project is St. Louis Bridge Construction Company, a local firm with extensive experience in working on bridges, highway and railroad structures, dams, levees and spillways. St. Louis Bridge is currently working on three other projects on the Mississippi River and is quite familiar with the Eads Bridge, having completed a rebuild of the deck of the bridge in 2003.

The company also recently successfully completed the rail interlocking project on the east end of the bridge. The interlocking project was needed to avoid train schedule delays during this larger project. It included the installation of a new track crossover device just west of the East Riverfront MetroLink Station in East St. Louis to consolidate light-rail traffic to a single track across the Mississippi River. The interlocking will allow restoration crews to work on one track while Metro continues to operate both eastbound and westbound MetroLink trains on the other track. Each track is anticipated to be closed for 12-18 months, as the rehabilitation on that side of the bridge is completed.
Metro’s design engineering firm is TranSystems which is a national company headquartered in Kansas City. It is a top-10 bridge design firm which specializes in inspection and rehabilitation of historic bridges and major river crossings.

Subcontractors for the bridge project include: MTC Construction d/b/a K. Bates Steel Services, Thomas Industrial Coatings, Miller Contracting Inc., ABNA Engineering, Gonzalez Engineering, Kelly-Hill Co., Wissehr Electrical Contractors, Western Waterproofing Co., and KTA-Tator. Suppliers include Centrex Electrical Supply, Anderson Paint Store LLC, and Missouri Fabricators.

Over the life of the project, workers from various trade unions including painters, ironworkers, masons, laborers, carpenters and others will use their highly specialized skills to refurbish the national landmark. St. Louis Bridge Construction Company and Metro have committed to working aggressively to include Disadvantaged Business Enterprises as well as workers from every segment of our community, assuring that workers and subcontractors on this project reflect diversity in business ownership and the labor force. They also are working together to ensure that the project is conducted with the safety of the workers, commuters and the environment as top priorities.

The Eads Bridge was state of the art in two ways when it was built: by allowing steamboat commerce to continue on the Mississippi River during bridge construction and by the use of steel, which at the time was a new structural metal. “They broke new ground when they began building this bridge almost a century and half ago, and we anticipate there will be unknowns as we address the rehabilitation of this unique historic landmark,” Nations noted. “We’re confident we have a great team in place and we’re prepared to meet those challenges as we extend the life of the structure for another half a century.”

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