Crumbling, busy bridge needs to be torn down

ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - A busy bridge is crumbling in midtown St. Louis. The city says it's safe for now, but needs to be torn down. It's already become a headache to fix. And for drivers, it will only get worse.

The bridge is on Kingshighway between I-44 and Vandeventer. The city plans to close it before the end of the year. And the closure isn't just affecting drivers, but also a group of people with a vested interest in what's underneath the roadway. Because, hidden in the shadows is a place that had been collecting trash and crime. But in that place one group saw an opportunity.

"[We] just kind of took it upon ourselves to make it a usable space," said one of the group's organizers, Bryan Bedwell.

So, Bedwell says the group took its time and money, and built a skate park. The city found out about it and supported the effort, since the skaters were putting the spot to good use and keeping it clean. But as the years went on, small bits of concrete would fall from the bridge.

"It was just deteriorating a lot, I'm mean it's pretty old," said Bedwell.

So, about five years ago, the city told the group it would have to move. And, since then, the streets department has been working to maintain the bridge, which it says is safe, while it works to make plans to rebuild it.

"We knew it was going to be very, very, difficult," said City Streets Department Director Todd Waelterman.

Because, new federal guidelines call for wider lanes and shoulders, among other changes, which means the city has had to buy property from all the surrounding business owners.

"It just makes the process very long. It's not like building a bridge in a cornfield where you have free reign and can do whatever you want," Waelterman said.

"Now, the plans are almost complete. But for drivers, the worst is still to come.

"The detour is going to be very rough," said Waelterman.

It will be rough not only for drivers, but for those who have spent years enjoying the space underneath the bridge. It's why they've raised thousands of dollars to build a new skate park free for anyone to use.

"It gives kids a place to go where they're off the streets," said Bedwell.

Construction is set to start in the fall or winter, and the closure could last for nearly a year-and-a-half. As the work gets closer, the city will map out a detour for drivers.

Work on the new skate park is also almost complete. But, the group building it, KHVT, is still working to raise the final funds needed to finish it. The group worked with neighborhood associations and the city to find its new home at 4415 Morganford. A community garden is also going in around the park.


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