Take an exclusive tour of the new Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – In five days drivers will begin crossing the first new bridge from the City of St. Louis, over the Mississippi River in nearly 50 years. The connector is has been named, "The Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge." FOX 2 got an early, exclusive, an inside-out tour of the bridge.

“It’s not going to overshadow the arch by any means, but it’s going to be iconic as far as a figure in the skyline for many years to come,” said Randy Hitt, the New Mississippi River Bridge Project Director. “Every once in a while, you kind of step back and just enjoy the beauty of it.”

The bridge's builders believe the $667-million project is exponentially more impressive when you drive or walk the 1500 foot crossing.

Stan Musial’s grandson, Brian Musial Schwarze, marveled at what he called “grandpa’s bridge” during what was the first crossing for a member of his family. “I got out my video camera (as I drove onto the bridge). I hope it’s OK. I started videoing the bridge, being one of the first ones to drive on it. I can’t say enough,” he said.

His grandpa once quipped at a statue dedication, “I have more statues than Lincoln!”

Now, less than 13 months after his death, St. Louis’s greatest ballplayer and greatest ambassador has a bridge.

The bridge was built with about 3 million feet of cable. But, the “cables” most think they see are actually protective sleeves containing from 31 to 73 cables. The number of cables in each sleeve grows toward the center of the span. Every 40 foot section between those sleeves weighs 700,000 pounds. The cables connect to metal plates inside the two 400 foot towers.

“All the weight gets transferred into these two massive towers. The entire bridge weighs about 300,000,000 pounds. That’s the reason we have such a massive foundation that goes 22’ into solid rock at the bottom of the river,” Hitt said.

The towers are hollow, allowing access for inspection and maintenance. 11 sets of ladders inside lead to an observation deck at the top.

“The bridge is designed for a 100 year design life,” Hitt said. “That means with proper maintenance it could go well beyond that.”

Most importantly, it will take I-70 and tens-of-thousands of vehicles-a-day off of the last city’s last bridge over the Mississippi, the Poplar Street Bridge. Nearly 50 years ago, that hollow-girdered structure was an engineering marvel.

People like iron worker Dean Samples, who helped build them both. He knowssignificance of what’s been accomplished and about the pride of the workers who built the new bridge. But, he’s still proud of “his” bridge.

“Oh yeah, hell yeah, I’m proud of it. I’m proud of everything I built,” Sample said. “When you come in at night you turn around a look at it, you see it’s half way up. There’s pride there.

“To look at it, it’s obviously a landmark,” said Andrew Wanko of the Missouri History Museum. “It’s going to be seen by thousands of people driving through downtown every day. I think it gives us something to stand out by…I think it is historic.”

The bridge opens to vehicle traffic on Sunday, February 9th. It will be open to the public, Saturday, February 8th from noon to 4:00pm. People can walk, run, or bike on the bridge free of charge.

There’s also a 6K run at 8:00am on Saturday. There will cycling time trials at 10:00am. Details on cost, where to meetand registration are available at: BigRiverRunning.com/BridgeRun.

Watch LIVE video of the new Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge here.

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Email: Andy.Banker@tvstl.com

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