ST. LOUIS—The new Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge connecting Missouri and Illinois passed a big hurdle on Friday.
Workers placed a 30,000-pound floor beam between edge girders on the Mississippi River crossing.
MoDOT officials said the work was going to take most of Friday. While the pieces went into place in a matter of minutes, the alignment and bolting were expected to take longer.
MoDOT says the floor beam was the last piece of structural steel for the bridge, which is expected to open early next year carrying Interstate 70 traffic between Missouri and Illinois. Workers were installing the girders Thursday across the remaining 10-foot gap in the bridge.
The Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge will relieve traffic on the 50-year-old Poplar Street Bridge, one of just two in the nation that accomodate three freeways.
The bridge has been years in the making, and has often been the source of friction between the two states.
Missouri lawmakers initially wanted to charge a toll on the new bridge to help pay for it. Illinois refused, and the toll idea was dropped.
Even the naming of the bridge wasn’t easy. Missouri lawmakers and key members of Congress from both states wanted the bridge to bear Musial’s name; the Illinois House voted 109-0 on a resolution in the spring to dub it the Veterans Memorial Bridge.
President Barack Obama signed the compromise legislation earlier this month naming it in honor of both Musial—an iconic figure in baseball-mad St. Louis who died in January at age 92 -- and veterans.
The federal government has appropriated $239 million for the project. Illinois is paying $313 million and Missouri $115 million. MoDOT said Illinois is paying nearly three times more than Missouri because most of the work to connect the new bridge to existing interstate infrastructure is in Illinois.