It wasn’t easy and it certainly won’t be pretty. But, sixteen years after it was first seriously proposed, Missouri and Illinois have agreed on the financing for a new Mississippi River Bridge.
Scratch the soaring span that would provide the Riverfront with a junior icon for the Gateway Arch - too expensive.
Scratch the tolls to pay for the structure - too unfair to Illinois residents who would be the bridge’s major users.
Scratch eight lanes - four is all we can afford.
Scratch the dream - accept the reality.
But better a functional nondescript bridge than no bridge at all. We need to add capacity to keep the existing Poplar Street Bridge from becoming a parking lot. We need to secure the $239 million federal earmark before it floats away.
The region also needs to protect its strategic edge in the national distribution market, making it convenient for trucks — especially those traveling east and west — to get to and from the area’s warehouses. The St. Louis area has a tremendous stake in making Interstate 70 the prevailing freight transportation route rather than Interstate 80 to the north or Interstate 40 to the south.
Rivers are the reason St. Louis is where it is. As a region of rivers, St. Louis also needs be a region of bridges. Now, at long last, it will have one more across the Mississippi. Let the construction begin.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Terry Jones is Professor of Political Science at the University of Missouri - St. Louis.