Grand Boulevard Bridge Reopens

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- After more than a year of waiting, drivers can once again cross the Grand Boulevard Bridge in Midtown St. Louis.

And now it really is grand thanks to a $25 million rebuild complete with decorative towers and a planted brick median, along with a wide sidewalk and two lanes of traffic in each direction. Eventually.

"We are not calling it done but we`ve got cars on the bridge," said St. Louis City Streets Department Director Todd Waelterman.

Currently, the bridge has only one lane open in each direction, because crews are still working on some of the finishing touches, including painting the towers and filling the median with greenery.

But why, in these austere times did the city, using mostly federal money, decide to build it so upscale.

"It is the place everybody comes, it is the heart of our city.  It connects two big business districts on both sides, so it`s the place to show off the city," Waelterman said.

The Grand Boulevard bridge between Interstate 64  and Chouteau is one of the busiest in the city, used by 20,000 cars a day, including ambulances headed for St. Louis University Hospital, where Helen Sandkuhl, the director of nursing services for the emergency room, says they are greatly relieved the bridge has finally reopened.

"We are the closest trauma center to Illinois.   And a lot of the patients we get are not transfer patients but fresh off the street trauma from East St. Louis, Belleville and those areas so time is of the essence for us."

Completely unrelated to the bridge project, but just as exciting for St. Louis University students is  the rebirth of the iconic flying saucer building, which sits at the north end of the bridge. It is being remodeled and will house both a Chipolte Mexican restaurant and a Starbucks.

Some students have dubbed it, the 'Starpoltle.'

"Lots of students especially like to grab coffee before class so I think it is going to be really helpful," said SLU student Scott Werth.

Randy Vines, one of the preservationists credited with convincing the developer not to demolish the iconic building, is pleased with the adaptive reuse of the property.

"We are just really exited the developer took a very visionary route in redeveloping an endangered building and we think it could be a catalyst for more buildings like it."

As for the bridge project, it should be finished in the next four to six weeks.  But there is another bridge project, potentially even more inconvenient next in line.

"Shaw and Kingshighway. That will be the big one," said Waelterman. "You think this was a headache for people, there is not a good detour there and it is coming in about a year."

The Grand bridge opening is about thirty days later than had been scheduled, and work still continues on the Grand Metrolink station, which is the busiest in the system.

The new station should open sometime in August.

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