1967: “Clean of Line but Strong of Sinew,” the Poplar Street Bridge Between Missouri and Illinois Makes Its Debut

November 9, 1967

The Poplar Street Bridge, which spans the Mississippi River and connects St. Louis, Missouri, with East St. Louis, Illinois, was officially opened to traffic. Missouri Highway News magazine reported at that time, “Clean of line but strong of sinew, the Bridge is a masterful blending of beauty and function.” This 2,164-foot (660-meter)-long structure, which can be found on its Missouri side just south of the iconic Gateway Arch, was the first orthotropic bridge in the United States (a type of plate-girder bridge with a steel-plate deck designed to function as a unit with the supporting steelwork). 

Over time, the bridge has also earned a couple of other noteworthy claims to fame. For several years, for example, it was one of the few locations in the United States where three different Interstate highways – I-55, I-64, and I-70 – shared the same route. I-70 was realigned in 2014 so that it now instead crosses the Mississippi via that area’s Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge. Both I-55 and I-64, along with U.S. Route 40, continue to cross that river on the Poplar Street Bridge.

This structure has been best known throughout the years as the Poplar Street Bridge because of a local street that it crosses on the Missouri side. It was officially named the Congressman William L. Clay Sr. Bridge during the fall of 2013. Clay served in U.S. House of Representatives as the congressman from Missouri’s first district, which includes St. Louis, from 1969 to 2001.

Photo Credit: Kelly Martin (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 Congressman William L. Clay Bridge (also known as the Poplar Street Bridge), please check out https://structurae.net/en/structures/congressman-william-l-clay-sr-bridge

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