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When the bridge at Grand Boulevard, the connection between Saint Louis University’s Frost Campus and the Medical Campus near I-64, was closed for reconstruction last March, students were presented with several transportation obstacles. The construction forced the Health Sciences Campus shuttles to find alternate routes, but it also shut down the Grand MetroLink station, which allowed quick access to many St. Louis attractions, such as Busch Stadium, the Loop and Forest Park.

The bridge is expected to be open for traffic by the end of May of 2012.  Once the bridge is up and running, MetroLink can then begin their project, which also includes new updated features, to be completed four to six months later.

The bridge was previously six narrow lanes, which caused problems, including a lack of space for city busses to pull over at the bus-stop in the center of the bridge.  While plans for the reconstruction have been in the works for some time, it was not until December of 2010 that the project began receiving the appropriated funds. Nearly 80 percent of the project is federally funded.

“It’s been something that’s always been on the back burner for years” Joe Stumpf, Supervisor of Mail and Transportation Services for the University, said.

The completed project is planning to produce a more efficient and aesthetically appealing new bridge. Stumpf said the new bridge will host four wider lanes with two in each direction, rather than the previous six. In addition, there will be a median with landscaping, giving an attractive look that will prevent cars from making U-turns on the bridge.

“We will also have a bike lane in both directions, and I know a lot students have expressed interest in that,” Stumpf said.

Another new safety feature, besides a wider sidewalk, will be a zone for public buses to pick up passengers.

Stumpf said that the communication and relationship between the city and SLU is positive. He said SLU took an initiative to have a town-hall type meeting during the beginning of the project.

“Obviously being on both sides of the bridge, [SLU was] impacted tremendously,” Stumpf said. “Between the hospitals and the administration here, they were very proactive in setting up that communication”.

He also said that the construction company (name of construction company) and the city were open and understanding towards SLU, and that everyone is in agreement that the new bridge and MetroLink station will have a positive effect on students and daily commuters.

“They want this station to be a kind of showcase for all of the MetroLink stations in the area, and something for other municipalities to look at,” Stumpf said about the Grand Bridge location.

Dianne Willams, director of communication for MetroLink, said amenities of the new station will include a parking lot, a transit plaza with seating and landscaping, and improved lighting to brighten up the station.  However, construction for this project cannot begin until the bridge is completed.

“When it will open will depend on the city schedule,” Willams said. “We will be able to open our station as soon as its safe and we don’t have a lot of construction overhead. But until Grand opens, you can’t get there anyway.”

While some students said they anxiously await the arrival of this new and improved bridge, many have had to leave for classes very far in advance to make it on time.

Junior Katie Wrobel, a physical therapy major, said she drives to classes on the Medical Campus because she feels the shuttle takes much longer.  General feedback from students, though, according to Stumpf, mainly said students approve of the route the shuttles take between the two major campuses.

The upcoming facilities will soon bring easier access to the Health Sciences Campus, as well as various city locations.  It is a matter of months until this can be brought into a realistic perspective.