Missouri Legislature gives Stan Musial name to half a bridge

No matter what Illinois does, Missouri legislators may have found a way to put the name of Cardinals great Stan Musial on the new Mississippi River bridge.

At least half the bridge.

On Monday, the state House passed and sent to the governor a bill that would name the Missouri portion of the bridge after Musial, who died in January at age 92.

The bill would take effect if Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signs it. Unlike earlier versions of the legislation, it is no longer contingent on what the Illinois Legislature does.

Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, sponsored the amendment naming half the bridge. “Our hope is that Illinois will follow suit,” he said. “But at this point, we weren't sure. So at the minimum, we have the Missouri side. I think it's important we honor a man who built bridges in his life.”

Illinois has other ideas. The Illinois House last week passed a resolution to name the new bridge the “Veterans' Memorial Bridge.”

That decision contrasted with the unity shown by the four U.S. senators who represent Missouri and Illinois. They have all endorsed the Musial name.

Missouri's state Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst, who sponsors the bill that was sent to the governor today, said he remains optimistic that the differences will be ironed out.

“I think Illinois will eventually rescind their opposition” to the Musial name, said Scharnhorst, R-St. Louis County. “There's a lot of Cardinals fans in Illinois.”

The bill, which passed the Missouri House 149-1, also names the highway approach to the new bridge after Andy Gammon, a construction worker who died during the building of the span.

The lone opponent, Republican Rep. Mike Bernskoetter, declined to explain his opposition. He represents parts of Cole and Miller counties.

The bill also renames several other highways, including designating the Missouri portion of the Poplar Street Bridge over the Mississippi River as the Congressman William L. Clay Sr., bridge, after the longtime Democratic House member from St. Louis.

Legislators added the “Sr.” designation to make clear that the honor was being bestowed on Clay the elder, not the current congressman, his son, William Lacy Clay.

The bill is HB303.