Biking the Harahan Bridge as $30+ Million Thrill Ride

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Once called the Harahan Project, the Main Street to Main Street Connector Project is nine miles of street and sidewalk improvements in downtown Memphis and West Memphis, Arkansas and one mile of pedestrian and bike bridge across the Mississippi River.

"This is a number-one priority for us," Mayor A C Wharton said Monday in a briefing on the project that is now estimated to cost "more than $30 million" in local, private, and federal funds. It will tie Main Street in Memphis from north of the Convention Center to Main Street (Broadway) in West Memphis. The ten-mile project includes one mile of cantilevered boardwalk off the Harahan Bridge, 3.8 miles in Arkansas floodland and downtown West Memphis, and a little over 5 miles in downtown Memphis from desolate blocks of Main Street north of The Pyramid and convention center to South Main Street and a new pedestrian bridge over Riverside Drive at Channel 3 Drive.

Because $14.8 million in federal transportation funds are involved, all of this has to be compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Construction will begin in September and the bridge section should open in August of 2014.

The bridge section will be either 10 feet wide or 12 feet wide, depending on how much planners and funders decide to pinch the budget. There will be a high, unclimbable fence on the railroad side and a lower fence with a mesh screen on the other side to permit river views. The deck will be light-weight aluminum coated to lower the summer heat. New steel bridge supports are raising the project cost. The "boardwalk" will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and have security cameras and emergency telephones.

There will be a parking area on the West Memphis side close to the western entrance to the pedestrian bridge. The western approach is covered because it is lower than the train tracks.

Wharton said it is time to accept the Main Street Mall with its trolley tracks, empty buildings and vacant storefronts in downtown Memphis for what it is — a pedestrian and trolley mall where (most) cars are banned.

"What we need to do now is make it the absolute best we can and make it distinctly Memphis," he said.

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