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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • New St. Louis bridge nearing completion

  • The new Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge at St. Louis passed a major milestone on Friday when workers dropped in the final piece of the steel deck.
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  • The new Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge at St. Louis passed a major milestone on Friday when workers dropped in the final piece of the steel deck.
    A crowd of construction watched as a crane placed a 30,000-pound steel floor beam between edge girders on the Mississippi River crossing, filling the last remaining 10-foot gap on the $670 million bridge.
    Missouri Department of Transportation spokesman Andrew Gates said it was the last piece of structural steel for the bridge. While the deck work is wrapping up, other work remains before the bridge can open, including completion of the approaches in both Missouri and Illinois.
    The four-lane, cable-stayed bridge is expected to open early next year carrying Interstate 70 traffic between Missouri and Illinois. It will relieve traffic on the 50-year-old Poplar Street Bridge, one of just two in the nation that accommodate 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.
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