The Bridge Over the Tracks

In 2001, the city imploded to ancient, decrepit Chouteau Bridge. A new, modern four-lane bridge was built along side the old one. The new Chouteau Bridge across the Missouri River prompted me to reflect on this now newly revitalized north-south corridor and it’s route continuing south.

Back in the mid-fifties, when I was about five years old, I had an aunt that lived in the Northeast area, close to the old Monkey Wards store on St.
John. Our family would make the occasional trip tom the Northland across the even-then rickety old Chouteau Bridge, proceeding across the bottoms on Manchester Trafficway. In those days, you had to cross the Kansas City Southern rail-switching yard at grade level, which was akin to running an ob- stacle course. You were almost guaranteed at least one wait while a long freight or coal train rolled through. My older sister, two younger brothers and I would fuss and fight during these unscheduled stops, while my dad threatened us within an inch of our lives if we didn't knock it off.

In 1958, the city, under Mayor H. Roe Bartle, completed the Manchester Trafficway Viaduct, a long, expansive four-lane thoroughfare that took you up and over the rail yards. I remember well my dad celebrating greatly at this. No more long waits! No more threats to bust heads!

As I crossed the new Chouteau Bridge on opening day, I took a nostalgic trip a bit further south, over the Manchester Viaduct. I stopped at the south end to examine the commemorative plaque placed on the superstructure, listing the mayor, the council members and various other city dignitaries
responsible for this great public work. Today, this bridge is apparently in very sad shape, with crumbling concrete and rebar protruding along both sides of it's entire length, the passive victim of-43 years of heavy traffic, bad weather and salt. Here I saw an obvious philosophic parallel, in that nothing stays new forever and everything is subject to the ravages of time, myself included. However, I also wondered if the bridge would have
held up any better had it been built with some of old Tom Pendergasts concrete!

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