a weekly feature of Business and Technology news in Southwestern Illinois.
by Bob Moore, SWI-News.com
VENICE, IL, (SWI-News.com), November 18, 2007 - In June of 2003, local and state officials gathered at the McKinley Bridge, located in Venice, Illinois, promising that it would reopen and become a vital part of the transit system connecting Illinois and Missouri.
In 1958, the City of Venice, IL, had purchased the bridge, financing the acquisition with revenue bonds supported by toll charges. In the mid-nineties, the bridge underwent a limited rehabilitation at a cost of $8 million. On October 30, 2001, the bridge, which had once carried 10,000 vehicles per day, was deemed unsafe for traffic and closed.
A joint agreement between local and state governments to eliminate $4.2 million in outstanding bonds paved the way toward securing nearly $40 million in state and government funds to repair the approximately 1.1 mile structure and reopen as a toll-free bridge.
On Saturday, November 17 2007, following a $50M makeover by the Illinois Department of Transportation, that promise was kept. Citizens, local and state dignitaries gathered once again to celebrate the reopening of the bridge, named after the president of the Illinois Traction System, William McKinley. The bridge originally opened in 1910 to carry trains and automobiles across the Mississippi River, north of St. Louis. Bridge traffic will be limited to pedestrians and bicycles until later this year.
Following the 'ribbon-cutting' using multi blueprints of the expansion, the crowd was invited to cross the bridge. St. Louis Alderman Freeman Bosley, Sr. (3rd Ward), who earlier had crossed with his daughter, joined others to make the trip back.
When asked what he remembered about the bridge, Alderman Bosley said that when he was a kid, he used the bridge to come over to clubs in Brooklyn, IL. "Now, I think that this is one of the greatest things since sliced bread, because when it's open, Salisbury Strip is going to become what Bourbon Street once was down in New Orleans. A grant of over $2.3M will be used to do the streetscape along Salisburg."
Commuters from Illinois coming across the McKinley Bridge use Salisbury to reach other destinations in St. Louis. The area north of downtown St. Louis, known as Hyde Park Historic District, is being revitalized as a cultural district with plans for restaurants, museums and live entertainment venues for jazz, blues, comedy and Country & Western, stated Bosley.
On the Illinois side, a beautifully landscape park, a two and a half year project undertaken by the It Starts Here Committee of the Chamberof Commerce of Southwestern Madison County, will welcome travelers into Illinois and Southwestern Madison County. The park will also serve as a Trailhead for the bicyclists and walkers crossing the McKinley Bridge.
The main feature of the park is a nearly six story, 25,000 pound stainless steel sculpture named a "Salute the Steel" with three interlocking circles representing the three cities, Granite City, Madison and Venice, located on the seven and a half miles of Route 3. Grants and private contributions of over $600,000 were raised for the park and sculpture.
In a statement, Paul Wellhausen, Chairman of the It Starts Here Committee, said, "This project is a perfect example of people coming together for the betterment of the area."
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