VOL. 115 | NO. 208 | Thursday, December 6, 2001
By JENNIFER MURLEY
Study to focus on third river bridge
By JENNIFER MURLEY
The Daily News
A joint congressional committee approved the 2002
Transportation Conference Report last week, which includes language allowing
for a study to evaluate spanning a third Mississippi River bridge in the
The language was included in an amendment to the Senate
version of the bill, added by U.S. Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN). The conference
report will now go before the House and Senate for a final vote before being
sent to President Bush by years end.
The addition of a third Mississippi River crossing in
Memphis has been a topic of discussion for years, but according to city engineer
John Conroy, this will be the first time the idea has garnered serious
Its something that is needed and will well serve the
area, Conroy said. I think its going to be beneficial in many ways.
Since neither the Memphis & Arkansas Bridge nor the
Hernando DeSoto Bridge were originally built to meet existing seismic
requirements. Conroy said a third bridge built to seismic code is a necessity
considering the realistic threat of an earthquake occurring along the New
Madrid fault, situated in the Mississippi River valley.
However, the Hernando DeSoto Bridge is currently undergoing
a massive seven-year rehabilitation, which includes seismic retrofitting.
In the event of a significant earthquake, youll probably
lose the I-55 bridge, and then youd only have one, and you dont replace a
bridge of this nature in a couple of months, he said. If you had a third
bridge which obviously would be built to seismic criteria, then youve always
got at least two bridges that are going to be standing even if a major
Another river crossing in Memphis would also alleviate the
mounting traffic problems recently experienced on the two existing bridges.
Weve had occasions when we had traffic backed up for
hours, and if we had a third alternate to utilize other than the I-40 or the
I-55 bridges, it would make it much easier to divert traffic and not have
people trapped in that congestion for hours on end, he said.
Numerous fatal traffic accidents in the past year are a
major source of that congestion. There are currently no shoulders open for the
first three miles of I-40 because of construction, leaving no place for
motorists experiencing vehicle trouble to pull out of traffic.
Until vehicles reach the Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard exit
more than three miles into Arkansas, there are no connecting roads between the
two interstates either.
Luanne Grandinetti, Tennessee Department of Transportation
director of public affairs, said the project would be handled through TDOT,
which will likely hire consultants to perform the study expected to include
engineering, environmental and economic analyses.
Weve wanted another crossing there at the river in Memphis
for a long time, Grandinetti said. State officials had hoped to see the I-69
project cross into Arkansas through Memphis, which wouldve provided another
bridge; but instead the crossing was placed in Rosedale, Miss., she said.
Considering the size and location of Memphis, Grandinetti
said a third bridge is almost necessary to handle the high volume of local,
state and national traffic. In fact, other cities such as Cincinnati have as
many as six river crossings.
The junction of interstates 40 and 55 in West Memphis, Ark.,
is the second busiest stretch of interstate in the nation.
Its not unusual to have more than two (crossings), and
certainly it would be a very good thing for the city of Memphis, she said.
Regardless of the location of a possible third bridge,
either to the south or north, Conroy said the city only stands to benefit.
It just opens up whatever part of the city it may serve,
for better access and probably for development.