If there's a greater workhorse in the Quad-City economy than the Government Bridge, it would be hard to find.

Thousands of people drive over its first deck each day to go to work at the Rock Island Arsenal.

Its swing span opens the door to more than 15 million tons of commodities a year.

Then, there's its second deck, which carries rumbling freight trains in both directions, as it's done for more than a century.

The Government Bridge (or the Arsenal bridge, as some call it) is a signature sight of the Quad-Cities, and it not only plays a role in our economy. A local historian says, to him, it's what really brought the area together in the first place.

"It joined the Iowa and Illinois sides together as a metropolitan community rather than individual cities," says George Eaton, command historian for the U.S. Army Sustainment Command, headquartered on Arsenal Island.

The bridge serves the same purpose today, though it has younger brothers up river and down the river that help with the task.

Eaton considers the Government Bridge two spans, actually. The first one, built in 1872, became obsolete, and the 1896 span was built on the same  piers.

Renowned bridge engineer Ralph Modjeski designed the 1896 span, and the work launched his career. What he left behind has remained a vital connection for the Quad-Cities.