Take a peek at the Gateway Arch visitor center and museum expansion project
It's a dream come true for many St. Louisans.
A new pedestrian bridge from downtown St. Louis to Gateway Arch National Park will open at noon Monday, when workers remove a fence and allow a group of schoolchildren to pass through.
This will end years of construction and improve safety, according to officials, because visitors will no longer have to cross a busy road to reach the park.
"What is so exciting about it is that you have this seamless experience, where you're not distracted by the roadway or traffic," said Sarah Melinger, director of development for the Gateway Arch Park Foundation, which financed the project with public funds and private donations.
Officials have wanted to better connect the city to the national park for decades.
The 97-by-274-foot bridge crosses the depressed lanes of the newly designated Interstate 44. Walkways are combined with landscaped sections that essentially expand Luther Ely Smith Square, a parklike commons in front of the Old St. Louis County Courthouse.
"We call (the bridge) the park over the highway," Melinger said.
This is a big year for the Gateway Arch, a 630-foot-tall, stainless-steel monument built along the Mississippi River in the mid-1960s to symbolize the importance of St. Louis in the U.S. westward expansion of the 1800s.
In February, President Donald Trump signed legislation changing the name of Jefferson National Expansion Memorial to Gateway Arch National Park.
On July 3, officials plan to open an expansion of the underground Museum at the Gateway Arch.
"Prior to July 3, visitors will continue to enter at the south leg of the arch," Melinger said, noting that they can ride a tram to the top, watch the National Park Service movie and buy souvenirs in the gift shop.