This bridge replaces the 1913 era Franklin Street Bridge. That bridge was a narrow structure with a bascule style drawbridge section. It was narrow and difficult for both highway and river traffic. US Senate candidate Mike Psak lambasted the spending on the new bridge when the dedication ceremony was delayed for two days when it was discovered that the highway signs read "Robert Michel Bridge" rather than "Bob Michel Bridge". Fixing the signs cost nearly $75,000.
The bridge is named after Peoria native Congressman Robert H. Michel, who held office from 1956 to 1995. His service included holding the office of Minority Whip and Minority Leader. Michel is a WWII hero having been awarded four battle stars, two Bronze Stars, and a Purple Heart. The latter was awarded after Michel was hit by machine gun fire.