Economic Benefits of Additional Rail Bridge Capacity: A Case Study on the Benefits of Replacing the Merchants Bridge Main Spans at Saint Louis
The Merchants Memorial Mississippi Rail Bridge and MacArthur Bridge over the Mississippi River make up the most heavily used Mississippi River rail crossing in the country. A large contributor to the popularity of the Merchants Bridge is its accessibility to all railroads. However, the bridge is 126 years old and in significant need of repair. Without improvements, the bridge will close in 2034 and all current traffic will be rerouted to longer routes, resulting in hundreds of extra miles traveled and more time spent. Repairing the bridge will cost approximately $250 million for construction, which includes the additional costs of closing the bridge during the repairs. However, the project is set to generate billions of dollars in cost savings in the coming decades. At a discount rate of 7%, improving the Merchants Bridge will lead to nearly $4.7 billion in net benefits over the next 20 years and approximately $6.6 billion in the next 30 years. These benefits will not only be realized by the transportation industry, they will help the entire region. Therefore, reconstructing the Merchants Bridge will generate economic benefits that will protect the most heavily used Mississippi River rail crossing and provide sizeable benefits to the public, at large.