People who use the Martin Luther King Bridge to cross the Mississippi River will have to find another route for about a year, beginning this fall.
The recently-approved Illinois budget for 2018-19 allocates more than $36 million to replace an old truss bridge that leads to the MLK bridge from Interstates 64/55. The Illinois Department of Transportation expects construction to begin at the end of the summer and last about a year.
"The (MLK bridge) will be closed for the predominant amount of that time," said Kirk Brown, IDOT program development engineer for District 8, based in Collinsville.
IDOT plans to hire a private contractor to replace the truss bridge with a beam-and-girder bridge. The bidding process will begin June 15.
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"The lowest-bid approved contractor will get the job," Brown said. "Once they complete all the paperwork, they will be allowed to begin work."
Construction could start as early as August. The contract will require the project to be completed by Aug. 31, 2019.
At some point, barricades will be placed at the MLK ramp entrance on the Illinois side and MLK bridge entrance on the Missouri side. The latter is in downtown St. Louis, just north of Laclede's Landing.
"You'll be able to get to Third Street and the convention center and everything else leading up the bridge," said Andrew Gates, Missouri Department of Transportation spokesman.
Illinois and Missouri co-own Mississippi River bridges in the St. Louis area, splitting costs for maintenance and repair. But each bridge has a lead agency that plans and administers projects.
Illinois is lead agency for the MLK bridge, so it will be responsible for coming up with recommended detours when it closes. There are six other vehicular bridges between St. Louis and the metro-east: Poplar Street, McKinley, Musial, Eads, Jefferson Barracks and Chain of Rocks.
MoDOT is widening the Poplar Street Bridge, which involves lane closures, but that project is expected to be completed by December. In the meantime, the agency plans to keep four eastbound and three westbound lanes open during rush hours.
"I think what people need to know is, when (the MLK bridge closes), they will need to have their alternate route planned and in place," Gates said.
Beyond the truss bridge, the budget allocates $2 million of a total $3 million in design costs for a proposed $223 million replacement of the Chain of Rocks Bridge; and $2 million for study and design of a $28.5 million replacement of the Illinois 111 (Kingshighway) bridge over Interstate 64.
"(The truss bridge) is currently safe," Brown said. "This is just an opportunity to replace a bridge that is aging, before it becomes unsafe. It's obviously a key route in our area."