Twentieth Century – Early Decades

We continue our look at the bridges of downtown St. Louis and slip into the twentieth century today. Railroads increase in size and number. Horses and wagons give way to motorized automobiles and trucks. Too much traffic for the Eads Bridge to handle without assistance.

Stone piers and steel trusses on a larger than life scale came to dominate the river a short distance downstream of the Eads. First impression is a bridge designed for heavy work. It’s beauty is found in symmetry and projection of power instead of decoration.

Construction began in 1909 of this two deck structure. The St. Louis Municipal Bridge, a.k.a. Free Bridge opened the upper deck to highway traffic in 1917. The lower, railroad deck opened in 1928.

Today the bridge bears the name of The MacArthur Bridge. The rail deck is in daily use. Freight trains cross the river here on a regular basis and Amtrak uses it when the Mississippi is at flood stage. The highway deck has not been used since 1981 and a portion of the deck has been removed. With curved and narrow approaches it’s doubtful that regular highway traffic will resume but occasionally you read of proposals to restore the upper deck for hiking and biking.

Bridge without frills.

Bridge without frills.

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