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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
McKinley Bridge
McKinley Bridge Mississippi River Crossing At Saint Louis
Saint Louis, Missouri

McKinley Bridge

• Structure ID: NBI 000060600214602.
• Location: River Mile 182.5.
• River Elevation: 385 Feet.
• Highway: McKinley Bridge Road.
• Daily Traffic Count: Closed To All Traffic In 2001,
14,000 Cars Per Day Projected In 2008.
• Bridge Type: Steel Truss Through Deck.
• Length: 6,314 Feet Overall, 519 Foot Main Span.
• Width: 2 Lanes Inside (One Shared With Railroad Tracks),
One Lane Outside Each Side.
• Navigation Channel Width: 500 Feet Wide.
• Height Above Water: 90 Feet.
• Date Built: Opened November 10, 1910.
The McKinley Bridge was originally opened only to rail traffic. It was built with two tracks running through the superstructure. Auto traffic was added during the 1930s by hanging a single lane roadway off of each side of the bridge. Rail traffic slowed down in the 1960s. At that time, one rail track was removed, and two lanes were installed inside the bridge superstructure. One lane ended up being shared between vehicle traffic and trains. Rail traffic ended in 1987. The remaining rail line was eventually paved over.

With 4 lanes open to traffic, the McKinley bridge became a major river crossing. It was damaged during the 1993 flood, but opened again a few weeks later.

Time treated the McKinley Bridge badly. It was never the money maker that it was intended to be. The City of Venice, Illinois, fell behind on payments, and debt began to accumulate. The City Of Saint Louis eventually presented the City of Venice with a bill for back taxes on the Missouri side of the river crossing. Venice could not pay. The state of Illinois had pledged money for some critical repairs, but was unable to transfer that money to the City of Venice with the tax bill hanging over its head. This was the final straw for the McKinley, and it closed in October 2001.

After sitting idle for a while, an agreement was reached between the two states and two cities. Work began in 2004 to refurbish the main bridge into a modern 2 lane highway, and replace the approaches on each end. Work is progressing, despite a few minor setbacks, and the bridge is now slated to open in the summer of 2007 as a free bridge. In addition, the newly rebuilt structure will feature a region trail crossing hung off of one side of the bridge. The Illinois cities of Granite City, Madison, and Venice are anxiously awaiting the new bridge to open. They expect the traffic flow to help revitalize their downtowns, spur development, and increase the value of their housing stock.

The rebuilt bridge finally opened to pedestrian and bicycle traffic on November 17, 2007. Automobile traffic followed one month later starting on December 17, 2007. The bridge is set up with two lane two-way traffic through the truss spans, a service road on the north side of the truss spans, and a regional trail on the south side of the truss spans. A park and regional trail connection has been developed on the Illinois side of the bridge. The regional trail connection on the Saint Louis side was still under construction in the summer of 2008.

  • Click here to view a bridge crossing from east to west.
  • Click here to view a bridge crossing from west to east.

The bridge is named McKinley Bridge after William McKinley. Not the former President, but rather, the President of the Illinois Electric Traction Association, the builders of the bridge. The McKinley Bridge carried the US-66 designation from 1926 to 1928. It was designated Optional US-66 from 1929 to 1937.

This bridge can be hard to photograph due to a lack of access to the riverfront on either side of the river. Despite presenting over 50 photographs here, I am still looking to take that definitive profile shot of the main spans with no obstructions. The photo at the top shows the view from Saint Louis, with a scrap yard in the way. The view below is from the Illinois side, where trees line the riverbank.

McKinley Bridge
McKinley Bridge
The photo above is a closer view of the main truss span on the Saint Louis side. The rail line makes a sharp corner and turns south along the river. The old highway deck curved to the south, then went west over to I-70. The new highway deck runs straight west from the bridge, directly to I-70.

The photo below is is a view of the elevated rail track on the Saint Louis side of the crossing. The track forms a ramp about a mile long, which kept the grade to an acceptable level for trains. This was once an electrified line. The overhead power supports are being maintained in the conversion to a regional trail for use as sign carriers. Notice that there are patches on the concrete piers to fix deteriorated support columns.

McKinley Bridge
McKinley Bridge
The photo above shows the new approach being built on the Illinois side. The rail line and the automobile ramps were removed, and a modern highway bridge is being installed to join the bridge to highway 3. The photo below shows some of the remaining railroad trestle that has not been demolished yet.

McKinley Bridge
McKinley Bridge
The photo above shows the trestle work where a rail line and the automobile deck joined up on the Saint Louis side of the bridge. This is located about three-fourths of a mile from the river. The photo below is a view across the street where the rail trestle has already been removed. Notice the damage to the steel building in the foreground, the building with the blue tarp on the roof. While tearing down the trestle, one of the backhoes fell from the trestle and landed on this building. No one was hurt, but the building was not intended to be part of the demolition.

McKinley Bridge
McKinley Bridge
These two photos show piling work underway. The upper photo shows a relatively short piling in the center of the photo. Workers are putting wood forms on the top of the piling in preparation for pouring the concrete pile cap that will support the bridge girders. In the photo below, the pilings are in the background. They are much taller since this location is much closer to the bridge.

McKinley Bridge
McKinley Bridge
The photo above is the approach to the bridge on the Illinois side. This was the location of the toll booths. The concrete was removed and the roadway was rebuilt on the same grade for the refurbished bridge.

The photo below is a view of the pilings and girders that support the new bridge on the Saint Louis side just as the automobile deck meets the new bridge. The structure on the far right is the old rail line that is being converted into a walking and bicycle trail.

McKinley Bridge
McKinley Bridge
These two photos are a view of the old rail line on the Saint Louis side of the crossing, which has now been converted into a regional trail. The old electrical support towers are now being used to hang banners. This is still a very industrial area. There are rail lines on both sides of the trail, the river flood wall is just beyond the edge of the view, and roads into this area are very rough.

McKinley Bridge
McKinley Bridge
The photo above is looking north up the length of the former rail line that is now a regional trail. The photo below is a view along the river side of the old rail line. The construction work is not completed in this area. There is no parking yet, and there are sections of rail track scattered and piled up in several areas. I was nervous enough being in this area during the daytime that I would not suggest being here after dark. That situation will improve over time as Saint Louis slowly starts to take back its riverfront.

McKinley Bridge

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