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Under the Bridge

Part of the Shelby Farms Greenline will be closed temporarily while the Tennessee Department of Transportation replaces a Memphis bridge

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Midtown users of the new Shelby Farms Greenline might have to trade their bikes for cars — at least for a little while.

Last month, block parties commemorated the grand opening of the Shelby Farms Greenline along the trail's seven-mile stretch. Now a Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) construction project will close a short portion of the trail temporarily.

In early 2011, TDOT will replace a vehicular bridge on Holmes Street that runs over the greenline. TDOT regional construction supervisor Scotty Plunk said they'll have to close a stretch of the greenline for safety reasons during a part of the construction process.

"There will be times when we're doing some overhead stuff, like when we're taking down the bridge, and it would be dangerous for anybody to be going through there," Plunk said. "But it won't be closed the whole time."

At a recent Memphis City Council committee meeting, city engineer Wain Gaskins said the city was exploring an idea to detour the greenline through area neighborhoods during construction.

"We were hoping to have this project built before the greenline, but funding things happened. The greenline got built before we got the bridge built," Plunk said.

Plunk wasn't certain of the age of the Holmes Street bridge. Parts of the bridge have deteriorated, and Plunk said it needs to be brought up to current safety standards.

"We certainly understand the need to replace a bridge that may no longer be safe, but it runs over a park and that park also provides transportation," said Laura Adams, executive director of Shelby Farms Park. "I personally know people who use the greenline every day to bike from Midtown to their jobs out east."

Adams said she hopes the design of the new Holmes Street bridge can provide additional greenline access for people in the neighborhood near East High School.

"It'd be nice if the bridge isn't just a standard-issue bridge that runs over a railroad track, which is what was there when the [existing] bridge was designed," Adams said. "It could really add a lot of value to TDOT's project, the neighborhood, and greenline users if it were possible to consider some design changes that would make the bridge more appropriate to its setting."

Though the contract has not yet been awarded, construction will likely begin after the first of the year and should be completed by August. Plunk said the "apparent low bidder" is Chris-Hill Construction of Memphis.

"Chris-Hill was the company that built the greenline, so they're going to try every way in the world to work with the people at Shelby Farms," Plunk said. "They'll do everything they can to keep the greenline functioning as much as possible. But there will be times when construction may cause some inconvenience."

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