Metro-East News

July 21, 2014

Martin Luther King Bridge closure delayed until next summer

Commuters to downtown St. Louis can breathe a sigh a relief as state transportation officials have delayed closing the Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge until summer 2015.

Rehabilitation work on the bridge deck of the MLK Bridge was slated to begin in August. The work would have required that the bridge be shut down in both directions for two to three months.

However, a bid for the work was "considerably higher" than anticipated by officials with the Illinois Department of Transportation. Now the project will be revised and rebid later this year, pushing the work off to next year.

The bridge closure would have come at a time when work also is under way on the Poplar Street Bridge, resulting in lane closures.

Illinois officials estimate more than 175,000 cars cross all the bridges that cross the Mississippi each day downtown. About 12,700 of those vehicles are crossing the MLK Bridge.

State officials anticipated the project costing $15 million, however, the only bid received was for $16.9 million, according to IDOT engineer Jeff Church.

Church said Illinois transportation officials are coordinating the work with their Missouri counterparts in an effort to minimize the impact to commuters.

"We had this window that was from August of this year until March of next year," Church said. "We're not going to be able to use that window so now we have to wait until some point next summer depending on the progress of MoDOT's work."

The bridge work is associated with the overall plan to incorporate the new Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge, and includes reconstruction work on the Poplar Street Bridge that will last until December 2017. Each day about 31,000 cars cross the new Musial Bridge and another 106,500 vehicles use the Poplar Bridge, according to a survey completed in April.

Currently, work is under way to reconstruct the exit ramp for westbound traffic on Poplar Street Bridge onto Interstate 70 and Memorial Drive. And between April and May in 2015, workers will complete westbound and southbound ramps from Poplar Street Bridge onto I-55.

Missouri officials have not conducted another traffic survey on Poplar Bridge since the Musial Bridge was completed but know traffic has decreased since closing the westbound ramp, according to engineer Deanna Venker with the Missouri Department of Transportation.

In addition, a new ramp connecting traffic from downtown St. Louis to southbound Illinois Route 3 in St. Clair County is planned. The $17 million work is set to begin in spring 2015.

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