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Eads Bridge Rehabilitation To Begin

Last week local and federal officials gathered on the Arch grounds with the historic Eads Bridge in the background:

Deputy Federal Transit Administrator Therese McMillan today joined Missouri and Illinois officials to kick off the Eads Bridge Rehabilitation Project, which will repair and restore the historic, 138-year old bridge and ensure safe and efficient light rail service for thousands of people who use the bridge to cross the Mississippi River every day.


The $36 million project is funded in part by more than $34 million in federal dollars, including $25 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and $9 million in additional federal transit funds directed to the Bi-State Development Agency of the Missouri-Illinois Metropolitan District. Local funds will cover the remaining cost to modernize and repair the bridge, which was built in 1874. (Source)

MetroLink light rail trains began using the lower level to cross the Mississippi River in 1993. The upper level was closed to vehicles and pedestrians for many years but was reopened within the last 10-12 years.

ABOVE: Metro Board Chair speaking at the Eads Bridge Rehabilitation Kick Off on May 22nd, 2012

This work won’t be visible but is necessary for continued use to the bridge. One speaker noted that before the Arch, the Eads Bridge was St. Louis’ most recognized structure.

ABOVE: Looking south towards the Eads Bridge & Arch, MLK Bridge in the foreground (top)

It’s nice to see investment in infrastructure but we have so much the needs so much work, how will we ever pay for it all?

“When you look into the future and you begin to look at what our investments will mean when we’re competing with China, India, emerging economic powers like Brazil, we better have our infrastructure ready to go, to be able to compete on a global basis,” said Victor Mendez, who runs the Federal Highway Administration. (CBS News)

Funding is largely based on state & federal fuel taxes but the income hasn’t kept pace  with costs.

– Steve Patterson


Currently there are "18 comments" on this Article:

  1. Rick says:

    The cost of this project is less than half the cost of one jet fighter.  

    • samizdat says:

       True. Although, it depends on which craft one is talking about. If we’re talking about either the F35 or F22, it probably is about 1/4 to 1/5th the cost of those two planes.

    • Eric says:

      The jet fighter is supposed to protect our oil supply, and thus, our economy. You pay a lot for the fighter, but in theory, you are supposed to get back even more. Sometimes the fighter is also used for things like preventing genocide (Kosovo, Libya), which doesn’t earn a profit, but hopefully we consider worthwhile anyway.

      The Eads Bridge renovations cost money, and we get back things like better transportation and culture (i.e. a preserved historic site). The value of these is hard to measure. It’s definitely worth $36 thousand, definitely not worth $36 billion. Not sure if it’s worth $36 million. From the description, it sounds like yes.

      Anyway, the point is that the profitability of each investment can be judged on its own. A bigger investment is not necessarily worse, you may get more out of it.

      • samizdat says:

         “The jet fighter is supposed to protect our oil supply, and thus, our economy” Um, sorry, it’s not ‘our’ oil supply. It is the property of the country under which it lays. The problem with our military these days is that they go to war not because they should (Kosovo is a weak example; Libya weaker still), but because they can. We have moved from a largely defensive Navy and military in the 19th Century to one which is almost strictly offensive. You don’t need 12 (and counting) carrier battle groups for defense. You don’t need all of the attack and missile submarines we have for defense. And as for the statement that we “get back…more” from a fighter, I am reminded of a number of studies done back in the Ronald Raygun era in the 80’s. In it they stated that a dollar spent on military expenditures would never be as productive as a dollar spent on education, infrastructure, hard research, etc. It was a long list. We are wasting billions upon billions upon our military as our Nation crumbles–literally.

        Of course the Eads Bridge isn’t worth 36 BillionUSD. But it is certainly worth more than 36 MillionUSD. Consider the cost to replace it. Look north for the possible replacement price: 500 MillionUSD. And if one factors in historical value, not only to St. Louis, but to the entire history of the planet, not to mention its value to the engineering community, as stated by msrdls, then we can safely say–in my opinion–that its value is priceless. It may not cost that much, but it has great value.

  2. msrdls says:

    Finally, federal authorities have authorized and subsidized this needed renovation. And, in my opinion, St. Louis Bridge Company is one of a very few companies in the state capable of successfully completing this type of restoration project. But everyone should expect change orders and cost over-runs. They’re inevitable! So the posted budget probably won’t be the final budget. You can count on it!   On a project of this type with both partially exposed and concealed concrete embeds, where bearing pockets, shelfs and connections have been subjected for years to the natural elements, and where both vertical and horizontal concrete surfaces have absorbed rainfall and been subjected to the effects of humidity and freeze-thaw cycles over the years…and considering that for decades, this structure was regarded as and treated like an adopted stepson…. significant deleterious  material reactions to moisture and oxygen have occurred and the probability exists that all things aren’t necessarily as they might appear from the surface. All major renovation projects have cost-.overruns. When unknowns exist, they have to be dealt with.  This is an exciting project, one that will attract the attention of hundreds of aspiring structural engineers in classrooms all over the country. 

  3. Moe says:

    I don’t have any issues with rehabbing the bridge, attracting the attention of hundreds of aspiring engineers????  They aren’t rebuilding the bridge or building a space shuttle.   But I digress….

    Who wants to bet that Metro will go over budget on this project as well?  And by over budget, I’m not talking two or three or even ten million….I’ll bet it will be BIG over budget.

    • msrdls says:

      Actually, I disagree with your high-end projection on the scope of any cost over-runs, barring unforseen and major failures. The major scope of renovation work scheduled is “exposed” steel replacement and “exposed” deteriorated concrete, and “exposed” connections and partially “exposed” bearing  and slide plates. To accomplish these work activities, standard protocol calls for certain deteriorated material removals and replacements beyond that which is exposed. Hence, the base bid already includes a significant scope of materials replacement. +/-10% cost overruns would place your low-end projections in line.  +/- 7 to 10% is standard fare on a major renovation project. Get ready for it!

      Observing how a structure corrodes over time is knowledge. Major, big time!   Greater knowledge produces better new products. Based on previous comments you have made and positions you have taken on various issues, I’m surprised you would question this? You must have an accounting background. I know personally of two top engineering schools that are eagerly awaiting copies of photographs and test results from the renovation. Believe me, the interest is there, Moe!

  4. Moe says:

    Actually yes I do have an accounting background so please excuse me if I can’t get all giddy over engineering studies. LOL.  I understand the need to remove any ‘dead’ material rather than patch and proceed….my point was that Metro 1) waited and waited to get this project started 2) budget projections keep getting tossed about 3) Metro has serious budgeting issues….i.e…they don’t know how to do it.

    It’s like telling a supplier I’ll pay you 1 million for your gadgets, but just in case, I’m going to budget 3 million, and since the taxpayer is paying me to pay you, I’m going to add in an additional 2 million buffer….just in case.  Where do you think the supplier’s final costs will be knowing all that?

    • msrdls says:

      Actually, the delay on Metro’s part ON THIS PROJECT may have been providential. In exchange, they were able to sign a contract with a nationally-recognized construction firm that not only employs  professional administrative staff that understand bridge RE-construction AND DESIGN work,  but also employs professionally trained tradesmen who actually self-perform much of the work. This translates into better communication on the project and a safer, experienced, homogenous work force that has experience playing together in the sandbox. Metro may surprise you on this one! They produced an impressive set of re-construction documents, and, to my knowledge,  they aren’t employing any third-party “watchers” who know little about construction and design but are always there to “administer” it. Give Metro another chance. So far, they’re done things right on this one!

      • samizdat says:

         I, too, am happy to hear that St. Louis Bridge is handling this one. I don’t know anything about them professionally (personally), but I do understand that by reputation they are more than capable of handling this work. It seems that many of these projects get handed off to general contractors, rather than the specialized constructors needed for such work. Congratulations, St. Louis Bridge.

        • msrdls says:

          Actually, samizdat, I was guilty of a Freudian slip when in my first post I referenced St. Louis Bridge Company. I actually meant to write “American Bridge Builders”. But I agree with you, that St. Louis Bridge is an excellent firm, fully capable of self-performing work on this project. But the job actually went to American Bridge Builders.

    • Tpekren says:

      Some history, the contract was awarded after a second round of bidding.  Not sure how many people posting know that fact.  The first round of bidding had a low apparent bidder that did come in several million under.  However, a number of questions and concerns were brought up concerning the qualifications and lack of experience as well as questions by the various trade unions in the St. Louis area.  A decision was made to disqualify the first bid and pursue a second round of bids.  American Bridge was the low apparent bidder on the second go around with their pricing pretty much the same price they offered on the first go around.

      For better or worse, I do think that some of the cost overruns have been dealt with indirectly through the second bidding.  The initial low apparent bidder was a surprise no name out of Minnesota with a lot less experience in bridge work relative to all the other bidders who submitted pricing on this project.  All the other bidders if not mistaken were in the 36 to 38 million price range.  Will it mean that their is no problems or issues.  Of course not, but it does mean the work is starting out with a well established contractor who has completed a multitude of projects for a number of bridge owners under budget and within contract completion date. 

  5. msrdls says:

    An interesting fact is that Eads Bridge was built by one of American Bridge Company’s “antecedent” companies, Keystone Bridge Builders, in the 1870’s. While American Bridge is HUGE and is barely challenged by a project of this type, I’m certain that every American Bridge employee will look fondly on Eads Bridge when the project is completed. Not often is a company given the opportunity to renovate a structure that they themselves built–almost 150 years later.  Like the Wainright Building, which is the first legitimate steel skyscraper in the country, Eads Bridge was the first primarily all-steel bridge built in the country. Eads himself was not a licensed engineer, and some of his details and connections were somewhat unproven at the time but have since become accepted, with slight modification,  as industry standard. Every structural engineering student studies the connections, beam formations  and pile and column details of the Eads Bridge, and information gained from this renovation will well serve future generations of engineering students–everywhere in the world.    

    • samizdat says:

       Not to mention, if my memory doesn’t completely betray me, the work that went into reducing–by a significant amount–the fatalities connected with the caissons. I note that the fatalities from the eastern caisson were numbered at fifteen, whereas the western caisson experienced only one fatality due to the bends.

  6. samizdat says:

    This is, by the way, my favorite bridge. It has always fascinated me, going all the way back to my childhood.

  7. J Saracini says:

    I think it is great that the bridge is being renovated … but, as I have stated before, I think THE bridge is being underutilized and under valued as a minimal traffic bridge … certingly with the other bridge available and under construction.  Ever since I visited the Ponte Vecchio in Florence I have envisioned Eads as an entertainment asset.  Imagine the bridge lined with lights across and up and down … with shops. restaurants, clubs etc.  Not only would it be a magnet on its own but can you imagin the view of downtown and the Arch from it when celebrations are conducted.  It seems we can’t or won’t use our bridges and rivers like they do, especially in Europe, but actually all over the world including some American cities.

    • msrdls says:

      I agree that constructing shops and restaurants on the bridge itself would offer a unique use of Eads Bridge, but the original bridge was not designed for that type of loading. In that Eads is located in a potentially-active seismic zone, engineering studies would have to determine any feasibility of such a reuse. The Arno river isn’t as active as the Mississippi, which makes development around the Arno much cheaper to construct and MUCH MUCH less costly to maintain, and much easier to access. Your idea, though, is creative and probably even worth pursuing, IMO. (Three years ago a client asked me if the top deck of parking garage I had structurally designed could serve as an after-hours party deck.  The answer was NO. The deck wasn’t designed to support that many people, dancing and cavorting as they would. The deck was designed for cars–not for people.)


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