'Amazing': Crowds jam new bridge; drivers get their chance on Sunday

News-DemocratFebruary 8, 2014 

Five-year-old Abby and 4-year-old Ellie Joliff on Saturday saw what their daddy had been working on for so long.

And they thought it was pretty cool.

Josh Joliff, of Troy, Abby and Ellie's father, was a structural engineer on the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge.

It's the biggest project Josh Joliff ever worked on. He was happy to run on the bridge deck with Ellie as Abby walked behind with her mom, Lynelle.

The bridge, which took four years to build, opened Saturday to pedestrians, runners and bikers.

The cable-stayed bridge has a main span of 1,500 feet that will carry four lanes of Interstate 70 between the metro-east and St. Louis. At about noon Sunday, motorists will be able to drive across the span for the first time.

During a ribbon-cutting ceremony, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said the bridge is a "distinctive and graceful" addition to the St. Louis skyline.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Springfield, said the bridge added to the hub of transportation in the region.

"It's a bridge to jobs. It's a bridge to opportunity," Durbin told the crowd who turned out at the center of the bridge for the ceremony.

"Let's keep building bridges," Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said.

Former U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, who helped secure federal money for the bridge, said it was cooperation that pushed the bridge from planning in 1985 to reality.

The bridge and the roads leading to it cost $695 million.

Chilly run

Runners dashed across the bridge Saturday morning before the general public was allowed on the structure.

More than 3,500 registered for the race that took off at 8 a.m. Despite temperatures in the teens, 2,911 runners crossed the bridge on a 6K run, according to Jeff Promnitz, a Big River Running Company race organizer. Community runs such as this are usually 5K but this one measured 6K in honor of the St. Louis Cardinals uniform number worn by the late Stan Musial.

Matt Lawder, 25, of St. Louis, won the race with a time of 19 minutes and 13 seconds, followed by Kwin Keuter, 25, of St. Louis, at 19 minutes and 21 seconds and Jon Roberts, 24, of St. Louis, at 19 minutes and 21 seconds. The first Illinois runner to cross the line was Dustin Schrieber, 18, of Waterloo, with a time of 21 minutes, 19 seconds. Schrieber placed 6th. The first woman to finish was Crystal Harriss, 35, of Glen Carbon with a time of 22 minutes, 25 seconds. She placed 15th.

"It was a little chilly the first couple of miles, but then I got loosened up. There was a little more snow on the ground than I expected and it was a little slick, but it was definitely a great view from the bridge," said Tony Wang, 24, of St. Louis. Wang finished fourth with a time of 21 minutes, 2 seconds.

Road crews plowed the small amount of snow that accumulated from the flurries early Saturday morning, Promnitz said.

"The feedback we have had so far is great. Everyone had a great time," Promnitz said. "The bridge is amazing."

Saturday's grand opening had all the trappings of a St. Louis-style celebration, with visitors wearing Cardinals baseball hats, the Budweiser Clysdales, vintage cars and veterans.

Veteran Russ Rieke, of Highland, said he was proud to see the bridge. Rieke and Bill Perkins headed the effort to have the bridge named for veterans, gathering more than 40,000 signatures during a petition drive more than 12 years ago.

"After all that work, it's finally a reality," Perkins said as he walked across the bridge.

During the ribbon cutting ceremony, U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville, touted the skills of the men and women who built the bridge, like Josh Joliff.

Joliff smiled when he was asked if he thought one day his daughters would drive over the bridge he helped to build.

"Yes," he said, looking down at Ellie. "And maybe one day my grandchildren."

Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at bhundsdorfer@bnd.com or 618-239-2570.

Belleville News-Democrat is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service