The Chain of Rocks Bridge near St. Louis Missouri is a mile long bridge that has been converted from road traffic to foot traffic. This former road bridge was once slated to be torn down but has been kept around as a pedestrian bridge that links Missouri to Illinois. The bridge has been restored enough to make it safe for pedestrians with various holes in the roadway having been patched up.
The bridge was built in 1929 and was closed in 1970 shortly after the New Chain of Rocks Bridge was built just north of this location. The new bridge is a simple girder bridge that is 4 lanes wide rather than the 2 lanes of the Chain Of Rocks Bridge. The original Chain Of Rocks Bridge is of a cantilevered truss design that is popular when a high bridge with a wide span is needed. In the 1920’s society at large was pretty paranoid about bridges being unsafe. Because of this many old bridges were built with an extra “paranoia factor”. This likely contributes to this bridge still being here after 94 years and most of that time with little or no maintenance.
The bridge is marked by one unusual feature, a sharp bend in the roadway about halfway across the span. This bend was put in when it was discovered that the bedrock of the river in that area would not support the weight of the bridge. Aside from that it is a typical old bridge design seen often in America.
The new bridge isn’t as pretty and doesn’t have the height or views of the old bridge. But it is perfectly functional when it comes to carrying cars across the river.
On the day we were there about a dozen other people were going for walks or jogs along the bridge as sunset approached. It was incredibly windy up on the bridge too, winds were gusting around 20-40mph.
The bridge was scheduled for demolition but they couldn’t afford to demolish it. Like many old iron structures in the area this one is no longer maintained and is now heavily rusted. For some it will have a kind of natural beauty, for others, it will be a dangerous looking eyesore. Whether you fall on one side of the fence or the other the bridge doesn’t care. It simply stands there, continuing to provide a way across the Mississippi river if only by foot or bike.
One oddity of this bridge is that it was a toll bridge for most of it’s usable life. Tolls help pay for structures like this which cost about 51 million to build in 2023 dollars. I wonder if a tunnel would be more economical in the long run?
It has to be one of the biggest pedestrian bridges that exists in America. How many pedestrian bridges are built to withstand two lines of car traffic for 50 years? With such grand aspirations in size and construction come many issues with maintenance. Due to the overwhelming and unbearable cost of repairs, the bridge will be left largely as it is now, probably until it falls into the Mississippi river and sits there rusting away for a thousand years.
I guess what I’m saying is, we might as well enjoy it as the oddity that it is, towering above the Mississippi river, and offering surprisingly peaceful views of the surrounding countryside.