Eads Bridge in St. Louis marks 150th year

The landmark Eads Bridge in St. Louis is marking the 150th anniversary of its completion, and it still is being used for vehicular and rail traffic all this time later.

The nearby Gateway Arch National Park is hosting events and special programs through July 7 to mark the occasion. Special promotional items for the bridge’s anniversary will be available in the Arch Gift Shop.

The Eads Bridge was the first bridge across the Mississippi River south of the Missouri River. It also remains the oldest bridge on the river.

Alas, the bridge never carried Route 66. But I would recommend checking it out anyway. It’s not often anyone gets the opportunity to be on a 150-year-old bridge that remains an engineering marvel.

The bridge is named after its designer and builder, James Eads. Construction on the bridge began in 1867, with completion in 1874.

It’s one of the first bridges to use steel in its construction, and its underwater foundations were unprecedentedly deep.

For a long time, the Eads was the key landmark for St. Louis — at least until the Gateway Arch was built in the 1960s.

The bridge was closed to motorists from 1991 to 2003 for repairs, then reopened to traffic again. It also carries the MetroLink passenger rail system over the river.

Looking over its history, I’ve found little evidence of structural issues or shipping accidents compromising the span.

I distinctly recall during the late 1990s a runaway loaded barge that crashed into one of the Eads’ pillars. The barge sunk to the bottom of the river after the impact. The pillar remained standing like nothing had happened. Charles Eads designed it right.

Yes, the Eads Bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places, as it should be.

(Image of the Eads Bridge in St. Louis by Mitchell Schultheis via Wikipedia)

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