Watch: Crews remove third segment of Merchants Bridge; final installation now complete

Written by RT&S Staff
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Three sections of the Merchants Bridge have been successfully removed and replaced over the last few months.

The $222 million project to replace the Merchants Bridge that links Missouri and Illinois near downtown St. Louis is nearing completion, and the St. Louis Regional Freightway gave invited guests and the public the opportunity to see one of the last significant milestones in the project firsthand from the special vantage point of a riverboat cruise.

Passengers on board witnessed history in the making as preparations continued for the third and final bridge truss to be floated into place. The installation is a crucial phase of the project underway to replace the vital rail artery across the Mississippi River, which is one of the nation’s primary east-west rail corridors serving one of America’s largest rail hubs by car interchange volume and gross tonnage. Dating back to the 1890s, the Merchants Bridge serves six Class 1 railroads and Amtrak as a bridge crossing across the Mississippi River at St. Louis, and replacement of the structure has been the bi-state St. Louis region’s top freight infrastructure priority since 2016.

Removal and installation of the three new trusses required three separate 10-day rail outages, and three separate river channel outages. The first of these outages began on Sept. 13, 2021, in preparation for the first truss to be moved into position and floated into place on Sept. 17. The second truss was installed in early March 2022. The final truss was floated into place and installed on Aug. 26 and 27.

Owned by Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis (TRRA), the Merchants Bridge required reconstruction due to speed, clearance, and load restrictions. The overall project includes the removal and replacement of the three river-span trusses, seismically retrofitting the existing river piers, and improving the east approach. Work began in 2018 and, when completed in the coming weeks, the new double-track bridge will provide reliable, resilient, and expanded freight and passenger rail capacity, helping move freight faster, cost effectively and more reliably, providing an alternative to more congested rail hubs like Chicago. 

“In TRRA’s 133-year history helping to ensure the smooth movement of rail freight, our company has never built a bridge, but today we’re marking a critical milestone in the final steps to deliver our first major bridge infrastructure project – a project that will dramatically improve the flow of both freight and passenger rail traffic through the bi-state St. Louis region,” said Asim Raza, chief legal officer, director of Corporate Affairs for Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis.  

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