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Reconnecting Madison County and St. Louis City across the McKinley Bridge establishes a vital link in the region-wide trails network. The two park and greenway districts work together in developing an interconnected system of greenways, parks and trails.

arrow This project was nominated for a Partnership Award as part of the 2008 National Trails Awards, announced at the 19th National Trails Symposium in Little Rock, Arkansas.

 

Greenway and park districts cooperate across river and state lines

 

On June 7, 2008, the Great Rivers Greenway District in cooperation with the Metro East Park and Recreation District celebrated the grand opening of the McKinley Bridge Bikeway and Trestle at Branch Street. The Bikeway features a 2,600-ft. long by 14-ft. wide cantilevered lane separated from vehicular traffic lanes. It connects to the new Trestle at Branch Street, a 2,400-ft. long by 24-ft. wide paved path that rises from street level at Branch Street to the height of the McKinley Bridge Bikeway.

photo of long bridge

The trestle at Branch Street rises from street level to the height
of the McKinley Bridge Bikeway

The adaptive reuse of this trestle, which was a former rail corridor, distinguishes St. Louis as only the third city in the world, after the High Line in New York City and the Promenade Plantée in Paris, to convert an historic elevated railroad viaduct into a linear urban recreation area.

The project is the culmination of a revitalization initiative that began in 2004, when the City of Venice, IL, the Land Reutilization Authority of the City of St. Louis, Madison County and St. Clair counties, IL, Madison County Transit and Metro (the region’s mass transit district) agreed to purchase the bonds and resolve the unpaid taxes on the McKinley Bridge, which had been closed since 2001 after falling into disrepair.

In late 2004, Great Rivers Greenway District in cooperation with the Metro East Park and Recreation District finalized an agreement with the Illinois Department of Transportation to provide bicycle and pedestrian access on the McKinley Bridge with connections to two of the region’s most popular trails – the 11-mile Mississippi Riverfront Trail in St. Louis City and the 18-mile Confluence Bikeway in Madison County.

Offering dramatic views of the Mississippi River and downtown St. Louis, the McKinley Bridge Bikeway is the only bicycle/pedestrian bridge across the Mississippi River that provides convenient access to the central business district and major sports and entertainment venues, as well as linking together residential neighborhoods, community parks and natural scenic areas.

photo of bikes on bridge

Crossing the state line

Bikeway Exemplifies Regional Partnerships

The McKinley Bridge Bikeway demonstrates the power of partnerships to improve transportation options for all residents of the St. Louis region. Creating it required ongoing collaboration between the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), Metro and the City of St. Louis, as well as both park and greenway districts.

Reconnecting Madison County and St. Louis City across the McKinley Bridge establishes a vital link in the plans for developing a region-wide system of interconnected greenways, parks and trails, known as The River Ring. The Mississippi River has served as a barrier between communities and residents for far too long and the re-use of the existing infrastructure transforms the project. Instead of a simple bridge crossing, the project is an inspiring example of what can be created with the spirit of cooperation and determination to improve the regional trail network.

The positive impact of the McKinley Bridge Bikeway demonstrates the importance of regional cooperation between Missouri and Illinois. It also focuses regional attention on the wise use of Add one - Great Rivers Greenway District Partnership Nomination existing resources and amenities. In addition to reconnecting communities across the Mississippi River, the McKinley Bridge Bikeway will have a long-lasting regional impact by providing economic, environmental and social benefits on both sides of the river. The Great Rivers Greenway District provided $7 million for the bikeway, with the Metro East Park and Recreation District contributing $950,000 toward the bikeway and the construction of a connecting trail that links into the McKinley Bridge Roadside Park. Future trails will connect the Bikeway to the extensive trail system developed in Madison County.

Revitalizing the McKinley Bridge

The McKinley Bridge was built in 1910 by the Illinois Traction System to bring its tracks into St. Louis. Named for William B. McKinley, president of the system, the bridge provided local access for the railroad’s network of freight and passenger electric interurban trains in Illinois, including local streetcars to Granite City, IL. Today, because of the foresight, leadership and actions of the two Districts working together, the McKinley Bridge Bikeway is truly one of the most innovative and scenic paths for bicyclists and pedestrians in the United States.

In addition to becoming a popular destination, the McKinley Bridge Bikeway demonstrates how connecting regional assets and initiatives positively impacts economic development, environmental sustainability, social capital and healthy lifestyles. Not only can the new bicycle and pedestrian route reduce reliance on automobiles, which is good for the environment, it provides a safe and convenient way for citizens to cross the Mississippi River to access jobs, commerce and recreational opportunities in Missouri and Illinois.

Local Recognition

The Great Rivers Greenway District and the Metro East Park and Recreation District jointly received an award in May 2008 for “What’s Right With The Region” from Focus St. Louis in the category for Fostering Regional Cooperation. According to Focus St. Louis, the award, recognized both organizations’ success in bringing various entities together to create new synergy and combining individual strengths to maximize effectiveness in the region.

About The Great Rivers Greenway District: The Great Rivers Greenway District is the public organization leading the development of a region-wide system of interconnected greenways, parks and trails, known as the River Ring. The River Ring will join two states and cover an area of 1,216 square miles. The Greenway District was established in November 2000 by the successful passage of the Clean Water, Safe Parks and Community Trails Initiative (Proposition C) in St. Louis City, St. Louis County and St. Charles County, Missouri. For more information about Great Rivers Greenway District, visit www.greatrivers.info.

About the Metro East Park and Recreation District: The Metro East Park and Recreation District (MEPRD) was formed by voters in November 2000, and is responsible for the development of parks, greenways, and trails in Madison County and St. Clair County, Illinois. The District supplements the efforts of local governments, special districts, and other jurisdictions already engaged in the management of parks and recreation facilities. The park district is the first of its kind in Illinois, serving over half a million residents in an area larger in size than the State of Rhode Island. For more information, visit www.meprd.org.

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