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One foggy St. Louis morning

Robert Cohen,

A Union Pacific freight train makes its way across the MacArthur Bridge on a foggy St. Louis morning in February. 

ST. LOUIS — A $28.8 million federal grant will pay for more than half of a major rehab project on the MacArthur Bridge.

The Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis, which owns the bridge, said work on the $57.3 million project is expected to begin in the summer of 2021 and take two years.

The grant was issued by the Federal Railroad Administration. The association, made up of five major freight railroads, will cover the remainder of the cost.

The project will replace the bridge’s worn steel girders built in 1912, said Asim Raza, an association executive. The bridge carries freight traffic and Amtrak passenger trains across the Mississippi River between the south end of downtown St. Louis and Illinois.

The grant is in addition to a $7.2 million federal grant issued earlier this year to help pay for a $14.5 million overhaul of part of the Missouri approach to the MacArthur.

The two projects will extend the bridge’s life to about 2085 and allow longer and wider railroad cars on the approach. The bridge opened in 1917.

The MacArthur is one of two major freight spans across the Mississippi in the downtown area run by Terminal Railroad.

Work on a $172 million replacement of the other one, the 129-year-old Merchants Bridge, is expected to start this summer and take three years. The railroads are funding the full cost of that work after failing to get federal aid.

Raza said the association plans to schedule work on the two bridges so that at least one track lane across the Mississippi will be available at all times during construction work days and two track lanes the rest of the time.

Raza said the association expects to be able to avoid major rail traffic delays during the work.

Amtrak executive Joe McHugh said Amtrak is looking forward to working with Terminal Railroad to accomplish the next steps in the MacArthur project.

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Mark Schlinkmann is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.