Groundbreaking held for improvements to Old Chain of Rocks Bridge on the Missouri side

The Great Rivers Greenway on Saturday held a groundbreaking ceremony for long-awaited improvements, including security additions, to the Missouri side of the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge in St. Louis.

Construction actually will begin early next year, with completion slated for early 2024. An artist’s rendering of the Missouri side of the bridge can be seen above.

According to the Great Rivers Greenway site, these are the improvements planned:

  • Restrooms and drinking fountains for daily use
  • Local artwork that reflects the Mississippi Flyway migratory route and Chain of Rocks river geology
  • Picnic pavilion for group gatherings
  • Direct walking and biking access to the historic bridge with a river overlook
  • Event lawn and food truck area with water and electricity for community gatherings
  • Restoration of wetlands and woodlands that provide food and shelter for native wildlife on site including migratory birds
  • New 1.5-acre reconstructed prairie (already underway) with a future unpaved footpath running through
  • Permeable parking lot (to allow water to flow through), an overflow grass lot and rain gardens to reduce stormwater runoff from the site
  • Fence around the site and gated entrance with staff on-site during peak hours
  • Lighting in the parking lot and video surveillance cameras
  • Emergency phone

The security improvements are particularly welcome. Break-ins of parked cars on the Missouri side of the bridge had been common for years, prompting many visitors to park on the less convenient Illinois side instead.

The project is funded by local sales tax dollars, federal grants and donors to the Great Rivers Greenway Foundation.

In August 2021, the project was given a $990,000 grant from the National Park Service through the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership program. The grant was matched by donations from the Mysun Charitable Foundation and the William R. Orthwein Jr. and Laura Rand Orthwein Foundation, the Greenway stated, with restoration of the prairie reimbursed in part by a cost-sharing program with the Missouri Department of Conservation.

A couple of folks, including Route 66 Association of Missouri President Rich Dinkela, posted photos from the groundbreaking on Saturday:

The 5,300-foot-long bridge, built in 1929, contains a 22-degree bend in the middle and served as Route 66 for many years. The nearby New Chain of Rocks Bridge that carries Interstate 270 opened in 1966, and the older bridge closed four years later.

The bridge was used in a scene of 1983’s “Escape from New York” movie. It appeared the span would be demolished, but the costs of doing so were too prohibitive.

In 1998, Trailnet leased the bridge and spent $4.5 million to shore it up for cycling and pedestrian use.

(Artist’s rendering of the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge improvements via Great Rivers Greenway)

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