By KERRY SMITH, EDITOR, ST. LOUIS CONSTRUCTION NEWS AND REVIEW MAGAZINE
Work is on track toward a March 2023 completion of the Merchants Bridge rehabilitation, a $180 million project owned by the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis and managed by Chicago-based Walsh Construction, a subsidiary of Walsh Group.
Walsh Construction Senior Project Manager Dan Sieve said rehab work began in July 2018 on the 130-year-old rail bridge. The bridge, which crosses the Mississippi River between St. Louis and Venice, IL, three miles north of the Eads Bridge, is 4,340 feet long and is traversed today by only 32 trains annually.
“The bridge has functioned as a single-span structure because it is functionally obsolete,” said Asim Raza, chief legal officer and director of corporate affairs for the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis. “The centers are not wide enough to accommodate two trains and it is load restricted.”
The rehabilitation effort includes replacing the main spans and piers, which have never been replaced, Asim said, although repairs were made where significant corrosion and defects were discovered through the years. “The purpose of most of the rehabilitation work performed, back from 1903 to present, was to increase Merchants Bridge’s capacity,” he said. “It’s an integral connection for the St. Louis rail terminal. Coupled with the MacArthur Bridge, it is part of the system that moves freight and passenger rail traffic over the Mississippi.”
Replacing the main spans and rehabilitating the piers and east approach comprise most of the work being done currently. “This work will ensure the continued efficient operation of the St. Louis terminal railroad and provide benefits across the nation’s rail network for the next 100 years and beyond,” he said.
General repairs to the Merchants Bridge’s main spans occurred in 1954, with major repair and rehabilitation taking place in the 1980s, according to Raza.
Other project partners on the current rehabilitation project include engineering firms TranSystems and Burns & McDonnell.