$7 million federal grant will help update MacArthur Bridge

The Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis won a $7.17 million federal grant toward replacing a truss on the west approach to the MacArthur Bridge that runs over South Broadway near Interstate 55 in St. Louis.

The Consolidated Railroad Safety and Infrastructure Grant is through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Rail road Administration. The Terminal Railroad Association, or TRAA, which owns the bridge, will cover the remainder of the project’s $14.5 million total cost, officials said.

MacArthur Bridge, constructed between 1906 and 1913, links St. Louis and East St. Louis over the Mississippi River. The new project will bring it up to current rail standards, TRAA officials said.

The current structure represents a physical obstacle to longer and wider rail cars. Improved clearance with the replacement truss will eliminate a 317-mile re-route for so-called dimensional loads, which are larger or heavier than typical rail shipments.

The project will replace the current truss with deck plate girders, increasing the horizontal clearance from 13.4 feet to 15 feet, officials said. The change will allow the bridge to accommodate 315,000 railcars going forward.

TRAA looks to award the contract for the work by year’s end, with the two-year build to start in 2020 for completion by 2022, according to Asim Raza, TRRA’s chief legal officer and director of corporate affairs.

The MacArthur Bridge project “is part of a continuous effort by TRRA to create a more fluid system in the St. Louis area for freight traffic,” Raza said.

The federal funds awarded “are consistent with the public benefits associated with the project by helping to lower industry shipping costs and ensuring schedule reliability for intercity passenger rail service on the Chicago-St. Louis Amtrak corridor,” TRRA President Mike McCarthy said Friday in a statement.

The MacArthur Bridge and TRAA’s Merchants Bridge, linking St. Louis with Venice, Illinois, represent the highest-volume rail crossing on the Mississippi River.

Separately, TRRA decided last year to move forward with a $172 million rehab of the Merchants Bridge despite losing out on a federal grant because of the bridge’s condition and the “adverse impact” a non-functioning bridge would have on the economy. The association had hoped to win a $75 million grant to offset about a third of the cost. Construction recently started and is expected to take four years.

TRRA is a Class III railroad and provides interchange services to Class I railroads serving the lower 48 states. It also owns a rail switching facility in Madison, Illinois, and several railroad routes in St. Louis and in Madison and St. Clair counties in Illinois.

By Diana Barr for bizjournals.com

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