ST. LOUIS (KTVI) - The clock is officially ticking on the Kingshighway bridge that connects Interstate 44 and “The Hill” in south St. Louis. The bridge’s life expectancy was between 40 and 50 years. It’s been open for more than 75. It will be torn down and replaced in a project expected to last two years.
Don Brown Chevrolet is one of a number of businesses that will be inconvenienced by the shutdown of the bridge. The lot sits at the southern foot, which will soon be gone. Brown is the first to say the loss of some 40,000 cars passing his business daily will hurt. But he also believes there’s no more time to wait for the rebuild.
“It needs to happen,” he says. “I just wish they would get started. The sooner they get started we know what the ending point is going to be.”
The view underneath tells the story. Metal work is exposed in the concrete supports. Daylight is visible through holes , and piles of concrete pieces, some very large, litter the ground beneath the deck.
“It’s scary,” Brown says. “You know, we watch the skateboarders under there. I’m just waiting for an ambulance to show up and a big chunk of concrete has fallen off and hit one of them in the head.”
St. Louis city Traffic Commissioner Deanna Venker says the project is long overdue.
“This bridge, being 75 years old, it’s in a lot of disrepair at this point. We’ve been holding this bridge together. It’s certainly safe to travel on at this point, but it’s outlived its life.”
She says streets in the area around Shaw and Vendeventer are already being prepared to take on the additional traffic load.
“We’re also doing a lot of re-striping, cutting back a lot of islands so we can make dual lefts, dual rights, and help push traffic through that area.”
She says there was no way to perform the project without shutting everything down. That’s partially due to the way they’re going to build the new bridge.
“Basically build retaining walls and fill them in with dirt and make a much shorter bridge section which helps with maintenance costs in the future. So when you do that it doesn’t lend us to being able to build half at a time.”
For Brown, there are concerns about business, but optimism as well.
“It’ll hurt for the first month or so. And then once people get used to it, it’s like anything else they’ll get used to it. It might take a little longer to get down here, but people will still get through here.”
Demolition is set to begin July 6th.