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ST. LOUIS – It was a paddlewheel trip aboard the Tom Sawyer in downtown St. Louis Friday afternoon. 

“Today we’re going to be able to see the Merchants Bridge Truss being placed on top of the bridge,” said Mary Lamie, executive VP for Bi-State Development.  

“This is one of the region’s top infrastructure projects. It’s helping the rail industry and as many of you know we’re experiencing a lot of interruptions in the supply chain, and this project will help with increasing capacity for the rail industry which will help the St. Louis region but the nation.”   

This sightseeing journey, a jaunt upriver, to see the progress on a 19th-century bridge is coming back to life, a $222 million project, and on track to bring economic gain to the Gateway City by 2023. 

The trip coordinated by St. Louis Regional Freightway and Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis, the owner of the bridge, was a nice leisurely informational occasion. 

Officials say the new Merchants Bridge reuses and incorporates the original 1890s structure but updates their trusses and footing. 

“There are three trusses,” said Eric Fields, chief engineer with the Terminal Railroad Association.  

“To get 520 feet of clear span between them. You have to build a truss infrastructure. What you saw was the first of three trusses to be replaced.”

“The Merchants Bridge is one of the primary East-West rail connectors for the United States,” Lamie said.  

“The St. Louis region is the third-largest hub for rail in the United States. So, this bridge is going to help increase capacity and speeds, and by doing that it’s going to help all the class one or national rail carriers throughout the United States.” 

Field said, “We poured concrete around the existing steel trestle that supports the East and West approaches and then we use the existing granite peers to support the wider trusses infrastructure.”

“So, we were able to save a lot of that structure to participate in the new structure.”