ST. LOUIS — A Mississippi River bridge between Missouri and Illinois will take a step forward next week when crews collect information on the river to help with the project's design.
The roughly $640 million project to build a new four-lane span between St. Louis and East St. Louis, Ill., is under way, after years of financial wrangling between the two states.
On Monday, geology crews working from a barge will begin drilling in the river between the Martin Luther King and McKinley bridges.
They'll collect information about how deep the bedrock is to help them make determinations about the bridge's foundation and footing.
"It's been a long time in coming," Greg Horn, the Missouri Department of Transportation's director of the Mississippi River Bridge project, said Wednesday.
He said while a lot of preliminary work has been done in recent months, the barge in the river offers the first visible sign for many that the project is under way.
"People will be able to say, ‘yes, this is real,' so we're excited about it," he said.
Crews are expected to work on the river barge around-the-clock during weekdays until early October.
The new bridge will be toll-free, after Missouri wanted drivers to pay for using the structure and Illinois argued that would be unfair to thousands of its residents that commute to work in St. Louis and Missouri suburbs.
Illinois is contributing about $313 million, Missouri $88 million, and the project includes $239 million in federal funding. The cable-stay bridge and its approaches will cost about $306 million, with the rest of the funds going toward improvements to Interstate 70 in both Missouri and Illinois.
Work on the bridge is in the design phase, but Missouri, Illinois, a federal transportation agency and contractors are working together on the project from offices in downtown St. Louis, Horn said.
Construction is scheduled to begin in 2010, with the work expected to take between four and six years, Horn said.
The bridge project originally called for eight lanes, but was scaled back over the years to save money. The new bridge is expected to carry about 40,000 vehicles a day and up to 55,000 daily by 2030.