MIDTOWN ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)- It was a long-awaited event that was supposed to come before summer started: the Saturday morning ribbon-cutting for the new Grand Boulevard Bridge, connecting South St. Louis to Midtown.
"These upgrades make Grand Boulevard, a great street," boasted St. Louis Mayor, Francis Slay.
Not just great - but "grand" indeed, in the eyes of the VIP`s who christened her.
"They certainly gave it the right name because we`re here to celebrate one of the grandest avenues in one of the grandest cities in our country," said Metro Transit CEO, John Nations.
"It's a bridge in the best sense of the word," said Saint Louis University President, Fr. Lawrence Biondi.
"It's a gateway to education," echoed Harris-Stowe State University President, Dr. Albert Walker.
Both schools rely heavily on the free flow of traffic over the bridge, which had been closed for close to 17 months.
"The sidewalks are wider. The shoulders are wider and a 9 foot wide, planted, median, will prevent dangerous crossings," Slay said.
In addition to that median, to be maintained by SLU, there are built-in pull over lanes for Metro buses and drivers dropping off passengers catching trains at the new Metrolink station below.
Along with $22 million worth of improvements up top, there have been another $7 million of renovation to the Scott Avenue train station below the bridge
"The Metro station is one of the best in the region," said St. Louis Alderwoman, Marlene Davis. "You must go down and look at it. It`s totally covered so you will never have the elements touch you, when you`re waiting for the train."
The screened staircases and elevators from the bridge to the train station will protect passengers from bad weather.
A plaza with public art is a place to perhaps read, make a call or have a snack. The train platforms are also covered.
Designers say even though there's one less lane of traffic in each direction than with the crumbling old bridge it replaced, the new bridge is closer in 'look and feel' to the original, built in the 1890`s and replaced in the 1950`s.
At least one bridge user thought the prolonged shutdown to replace the entire bridge at once, was worth the sacrifice.
"It's the grand opening of Grand. If you did it lane by lane it wouldn't be so spectacular," said driver, Stacey Swabby.
After a brief closure to allow people to walk the bridge, all lanes reopened to traffic Saturday afternoon.
The bridge and the Metrolink station closed in March of 2011.
A single lane of traffic on the bridge opened in each direction, last month.
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