THE MUNICIPAL BRIDGE
On March 23, 1906, a bill was submitted to Congress for the erection of a Municipal Bridge at St. Louis to span the Mississippi River to the City of East St. Louis. The bill was passed by Congress on June 25, of the same year, authorizing the city of St. Louis to Build the Municipal Bridge. A bond issue floated June 12th carried $3,500,000 for the erection of this structure. The construction of the western end of the bridge was begun on July 15, 1907 and was located on 7th St., about 325 feet north of Chouteau Ave. The final engineers plans approved by the 'jar Dept. were submitted May 20, 1909. The first contract (for channel piers) was let July 28th of the same year. Construction work started on Dec. 20th.
On Feb. 21, 1917 an ordinance was approved providing terms and regulations for use of bridge and creating Municipal Bridge Commission composed of the Mayor, President of board of Aldermen, Comptroller, Director of Streets and Sewers and Director of Public Utilities.
The formal transfer of the bridge to Municipal Bridge Commission took place May 16, 1918, including all work completed, then existing plans and specifications.
A part of a $88,372,500.00 program the bond issue for approaches was carried, the western approach to cost $1,500,000 and the eastern approach about the same figure. This work was recently completed. A toll is charged for automobile traffic so the bridge is not in the strict sense of the word a "free bridge". There is no charge to pedestrians in crossing the bridge.
The highway deck of the Municipal Bridge was thrown open to the public January 20, 1917. A salute of guns was the signal for a motor truck loaded with coal to commence the two rile journey across the upper deck from East St. Louis, this was the first ton of soft coal that crossed the Mississippi River in more than 25 years without paying tribute to the railroads.
Until the lower or railroad deck was put in operation the city had to depend on motor trucks and horses drawn vehicles to supply coal free of the arbitrary toll.
The completed bridge cost about $6,000,000 and was built to compete with the Eads and Merchant Bridges both owned by the Terminal Railroad Association, and to force the abolition of the arbitrary of those bridges by offering the railroads free use of it.
After the bonds for the bridge were voted the fourteen railroads then composing the Terminal Association voluntarily readjusted rates in such a manner that on all freight originating more than 100 miles from St. Louis the same rate would apply to both St. Louis and East St. Louis.
It was estimated that $25,000,000 in freight tolls was saved by the abolition of the arbitrary tax on goods originating beyond 100 miles.
The toll of twenty cents a ton was the charge the railroads exacted at that time on coal for bringing it to the Missouri side of the river. This was such an important factor in the operation of many industries that it drove many plants to locate in East St. Louis, Granite City and Madison Ill. Several large industries that had been in St. Louis went to great expense to remove across the river.
The citizens of St. Louis charged the saving on coal was the main inducement to draw them to the Illinois side of the river. This was the principal reason originally that the Municipal Bridge was built, and on this ground the city declined to abandon the project when the Terminal Railroad offered to lease the highway deck of the Eads Bridge to the city.
The Terminal Railroad proposed that it would build a railroad bridge close to the site chosen for the city's bridge, if the city would enter the Eads Bridge proposition.
This proposal was rejected and the construction of the Municipal Bridge was Continued. It took ten years to complete it, due to financial and political trouble. It was completed however to the last detail and is today one of the finest bridges in the country.
Field Worker: Edward Condon
East St. Louis, Illinois
St. Clair County
April 29, 1936