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MLK Bridge to shut down for 1 year, starting Monday

The Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge, built in 1951, is a major thoroughfare connecting Illinois and downtown St. Louis.
Sarah Kellogg | St. Louis Public Radio
The Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge, built in 1951, is a major thoroughfare connecting Illinois and downtown St. Louis.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge will be closed for a year, beginning Monday.

Both directions of the bridge over the Mississippi River, connecting St. Louis and East St. Louis,  will be shut down as a part of a construction project led by the Illinois Department of Transportation. The $24.3 million project includes the demolition and replacement of a smaller, nearby bridge that spans I-55 and I-64.

Illinois Department of Transportation engineer Joel Cumby says the neighboring bridge has outlived its lifespan and must be replaced.

“The bridge has been deemed structurally deficient,” Cumby said. “It’s deteriorating and it’s deteriorating quickly.”


The project also includes resurfacing several ramps, updating lighting and sewer systems on the MLK Bridge and repairing seven other nearby bridges.

The MLK Bridge is expected to reopen in fall 2019, though an exact date has yet to be announced.

The Illinois Department of Transportation is encouraging drivers to plan alternate routes, including Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge, Poplar Street Bridge, McKinley Bridge, Chain of Rocks Bridge and Jefferson Barracks Bridge.

Madison County Transit has also urged motorists to consider using public transit, such as the MCT Express Bus Service and RideFinders, a free public carpool service in the St. Louis area.

“Fewer lanes across the Mississippi River will cause traffic congestion and delays for commuters, unless we as a region make an effort to reduce the number of cars on the road,” Jerry Kain, MCT managing director said in a press release.

The Illinois Department of Transportation estimates 12,000 drivers cross the MLK Bridge each day, down from 23,000 drivers a day before the opening of the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge in 2014.

This is the second time the MLK Bridge has been closed in recent years. In 2015, the bridge was shut down for about six months.

During that time, crews performed $16 million in repairs to the bridge, including the replacing the steel grid deck below the driving surface and repairs to the expansion joints.

Follow Shahla on Twitter: @shahlafarzan

Shahla Farzan is a PhD ecologist and science podcast editor at American Public Media. She was previously a reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.