UP City Agree to Work on Bridge Path

By Bill Dries

Union Pacific Railroad officials have agreed to work with the city of Memphis and Crittenden County, Ark. officials toward the goal of a bicycle and pedestrian path on the Harahan rail bridge across the Mississippi River.

A Memphis-West Memphis delegation of a dozen people met Friday in Omaha, Nebraska with Union Pacific CEO James Young.

“We’ve agreed -- to use their language -- to get it done. … Now the hard work starts,” Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. said after the group returned Friday evening to Memphis. “We’re going to put this on a fast track.”

Wharton led the delegation that included bicycling enthusiast Charles McVean who has become a promoter of developing a regional system of trails and greenways.

“The response was every bit as positive as we could have possibly hoped for,” McVean said.

His idea is a bicycle and pedestrian path on the northern side of the 95 year old bridge. The river crossing would be built on the steel framework of an old “wagon way” built for pedestrians, horse drawn wagons and cars before the Memphis-Arkansas automobile bridges was built.

The city of Memphis and Crittenden County own the wagonway and access points on both sides of the bridge.

Attorney Charles Newman said Young gave the group a “commitment to do whatever it takes to make this happen.”

The next step would be a letter of agreement on the terms of that commitment.

“We want to make sure that what they expect from us is in sync with what we have contemplated we are going to have to do,” Wharton said. “We’re not going to draw up something and go drop it off up there.”

The railroad wants to make sure access to the bridge doesn’t raise security concerns, concerns McVean said he understands.

“A lot of commerce comes across that bridge,” he said.

The delegation included Ark. legislator and former West Memphis Mayor Keith Ingram and Crittenden County Judge Milton Holt who are also pursuing parks and trails that would use the levee system on the Arkansas side of the river for connections to Horseshoe Lake and other points in southeastern Arkansas.