Tuesday morning, Saint Louis social media was abuzz with news that the controlled demolition of the westbound section of the Blanchette Bridge, which connects Saint Charles and Saint Louis counties, would be broadcast live. The Missouri Department of Transportation explains on its website that the bridge was “in serious need of major repairs” and that left intact, more expensive emergency repairs would have been “required at more frequent [intervals] with longer traffic closures.”
The good news for preservationists? More people know about the bridge, which first opened to traffic in 1958. The bad news? Well . . .
Cynics may suggest that I wrote this blog post as an excuse to share video of a really cool explosion, and to them I say, “kinda sorta.” But the other reason I am writing about the Blanchette Bridge is to reiterate a point I have made before: that not all old structures are “historic” or should be preserved. Missouri accounts for nearly one-in-seven historic preservation projects nationally. It preserves golf courses and taco stands with taxpayer dollars. Preservationists block redevelopment plans for buildings younger than the Blanchette Bridge, notably the AAA building in Saint Louis City, which was built in 1976. Yet the Blanchette Bridge was almost certainly a more unique structure than the AAA building.
Playing devil’s advocate, I ask: Why wasn’t the Blanchette Bridge protected as well?