2000: The Debut of a Replacement Bridge Named After a Literary Giant

September 16, 2000

A new version of the Mark Twain Memorial Bridge, spanning the Mississippi River between Missouri and Illinois, was formally opened to a great deal of fanfare. This through truss bridge connects the Missouri city of Hannibal, which had been the childhood home of renowned writer and humorist Mark Twain (the pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens), with Levee Township in Illinois.

That bridge was built just north of the original Mark Twain Memorial Bridge, which had been formally opened in 1936 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  The construction of the first Mark Twain Memorial Bridge was carried out as a Public Works Administration project. Over time, that cantilevered through truss bridge became increasingly obsolete due to everything from the dramatic growth in motor vehicle traffic in the region to the mushrooming presence of big trucks on the nation’s highways.

In its news story about the debut of the second Mark Twain Memorial Bridge in 2000, the Associated Press (AP) emphasized the deficiencies of that bridge’s predecessor. “Its two lanes are narrow,” reported AP. “Potholes have been filled time and again. Exposed rods jut out from deteriorating concrete.” This news story then noted, “Many a driver found religion as a passing 18-wheeler caused an uncomfortable bounce on the roadway.” This bridge would be demolished not long after the inauguration of its four-lane replacement.

Several thousand people turned out for the opening of the new bridge. The public officials on hand for those dedication ceremonies included Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan (a month before he was killed in a plane crash); and both of the Show-Me State’s U.S. senators, John Ashcroft and Kit Bond. The daylong celebration also featured music played by high school bands from Hannibal and the nearby Illinois community of West Pike, and – as confirmed by AP – the presence of “thousands of balloons.” In addition, those in attendance were given the opportunity to walk across the new structure.

The debut of the second Mark Twain Memorial Bridge on that Saturday also occasioned the first time since the end of World War II that the Hannibal Courier-Post put out an extra edition. The newspaper’s editor Mary Lou Montgomery explained, “The excitement over the bridge dedication is tremendous, and we’re responding to that excitement.”

Mary Ann Graham likewise highlighted the widespread enthusiasm of that day. “The old bridge has seen its day,” she remarked in an AP interview while passing out cups of water to others who had shown up for the event. “This is something we’ve needed for a long time.”

Photo Credit: Madmaxmarchhare at English Wikipedia (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)

For more information on the current version of the Mark Twain Memorial Bridge, please check out https://structurae.net/en/structures/mark-twain-memorial-bridge

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