UPDATED at 10:30 p.m. Saturday
The long-awaited replacement span for the narrow 91-year-old Champ Clark Bridge at Louisiana, Missouri, opened following a dedication ceremony Saturday evening.
The new $60 million Mississippi River span, which bears the same name, is about 90 miles north of metro St. Louis. The bridges carry U.S. Highway 54 to and from Pike County, Illinois.
The new 40-foot-wide bridge has two driving lanes and full-size shoulders on both sides. The old span is 20 feet wide with no shoulders.
Marisa Ellison, a Missouri Department of Transportation spokeswoman, said the old bridge will remain open a few weeks only to allow motorists to get to and from a marina on the Illinois side.
Completion of work on access to the marina from the Illinois side of the new bridge has been delayed by recent flooding. Eventually, the old bridge will be demolished.
The bridges are named for James Beauchamp “Champ” Clark of nearby Bowling Green, Missouri, who was U.S. House speaker from 1911 to 1919 and made an unsuccessful run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1912.
Clark was the front-runner going into the party’s national convention but ended up losing to Woodrow Wilson, then the New Jersey governor, on the 46th ballot. Clark’s son, Bennett Clark, served Missouri in the U.S. Senate from 1933 until 1945.
Champ Clark’s great-grandson, St. Louis lawyer Ben Clark, was among speakers at the ceremony Saturday.
Missouri and Illinois each kicked in $25 million for the new bridge — with about 80 percent of each state’s total coming from their allotment of federal highway funds. A $10 million federal grant also went into the project.