St. Louis recently became a more driver-friendly city, when a team of Budweiser Clydesdales led the grand opening of the third longest cable-stayed bridge in the U.S. The Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge—known to locals as the Stan Span—is part of a project to alleviate traffic congestion by rerouting Interstate 70 off of the downtown Poplar Street Bridge, which held traffic from three interstates.
I-70 now crosses the Mississippi River between Missouri and Illinois on its own four-lane bridge. “Adding another access point on the river relieves gridlock and allows us to reconfigure the Poplar Street Bridge without crippling three interstates,” says Randy Hitt, Missouri DOT (MoDOT) engineer and project director.
On top of planning and building a new bridge, interstate projects involve a host of complicating factors. These include different state laws and construction specifications, budgeting, and management styles. As neighbors bordering the Mississippi River however, MoDOT and the Illinois DOT (IDOT) have a long-standing partnership.
The two agencies hold an annual Border Bridge meeting to coordinate maintenance of shared bridges and plan new projects. The agencies alternate responsibility for each new project, with the state responsible for building the project taking the lead on future maintenance.
In the case of the Stan Span, MoDOT coordinated design and construction and managed contracts. IDOT was responsible for roughly two-thirds of the funding because most of the roadwork falls on its side of the river. The agencies will split maintenance costs evenly.
Jointly funded portions of the project, including the bridge and its approaches on each side, were designed to MoDOT specifications, although IDOT oversaw construction in Illinois. “It’s easier for each state to oversee certain segments, to handle procurement, different regulatory agencies, and other state-specific logistics,” says Hitt. Union labor contracts required an equal number of workers from each state’s local union to work on the main bridge span.
Although the bridge is attracting the most attention, the I-70 segment relocation involved 37 separate projects, mostly completed in 2013. The bridge opened in February 2014 according to schedule, thanks, in part, to weekly construction meetings with project partners. “Everything has gone even more smoothly than we anticipated,” says Hitt.
Empowering project partners
From the beginning, MoDOT set out to expedite the design process. “Typically, a bridge of this magnitude would take two to three years,” says Hitt. “We told the designers we wanted it faster, since we were facing roughly $1.4 million in inflation costs each month that it wasn’t being built.”