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VOL. 127 | NO. 210 | Friday, October 26, 2012

Public Hearings Begin On Main to Main Connector

By Bill Dries

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Downtown Memphis Commission president Paul Morris calls it “Main Street to Main Street Over The Harahan.”

Improvements along South Main Street will be just part of the large-scale project that will connect Memphis’ Main Street to West Memphis’ via the Harahan rail bridge.

(Daily News File Photo: Lance Murphey)

The unofficial name for the $30 million project linking Main Street Memphis to Broadway Street in West Memphis via a bicycle and pedestrian boardwalk on the Harahan rail bridge across the Mississippi River draws fewer questions than the title that involves the term “intermodal connector.”

The term is just the beginning of the complexity involved in the project, which earlier this year secured $15 million in federal funding to go with another $15 million from various government and private sources.

At the first public meeting on the project Wednesday, Oct. 24, Morris told a group of around 100 people at One Commerce Square that it is a “very complex fiscal project.”

“It is going to be a lot of work to get this done,” he added as he introduced Mike Carpenter of the city’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations.

Carpenter, a former Shelby County commissioner, is overseeing a process that not only has four distinct segments. It has more than a dozen partners – funding and otherwise – and much of the government money is for very specific purposes from drainage to sidewalks to bicycle lanes.

“Each of these funding sources has limitations on how they can be spent,” Carpenter said as he detailed funding that can only be used on one side of the bridge.

Some of the funding can’t be used for the bridge but can be used for the access to the bridge boardwalk only.

“The city of Memphis storm water funds … will address drainage issues in particular on the Main Street Mall,” he added. “Those are storm water fees that can only be used for drainage mitigation and related design.”

Tax increment financing to the tune of $2 million can only be used within the formal borders of Uptown.

The complexity began with a simple solution to a political problem. The city of Memphis had two competing applications for the federal transportation funding grant it hoped to win. One project was for improvements to Main Street from Uptown to the South Main Historic Arts District. The other was for the Harahan Bridge boardwalk project.

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, told city leaders the two projects might cancel each other out and that the city’s best option was to combine them into one project.

Carpenter gave the crowd at Wednesday’s gathering a very general outline of the project because at this point that is all there is. No design work has been done.

The first part of the work would begin a year from now, in October 2013, on the Harahan Bridge boardwalk along with work on the West Memphis-Broadway transition to what is that city’s main street.

The boardwalk work would take until July 2014. The work on Broadway would take until October 2015.

A month after that work begins, the work on the Main Street Mall in Memphis begins. The reworking of the mall, the third including its debut as a pedestrian mall in 1976, would last from November 2013 to March 2015.

The segments that are the South Main Historic Arts District and the parts of North Main Street in the Uptown section north of the mall both begin in January 2014. The Uptown section would take about a year to complete. The South Main district work, which includes a loop around the National Civil Rights Museum, would take until October 2015.

Those at the meeting included Downtown residents and business owners.

Carpenter fielded concerns and questions about what impact the remake of the mall would have on businesses along the mall as well as whether the Main Street trolley would continue to run on Main during the work. Carpenter said there has been some discussion about phases for the mall work but no decisions have been made.

PROPERTY SALES 61 61 6,453
MORTGAGES 46 46 4,081
BUILDING PERMITS 113 113 15,474
BANKRUPTCIES 19 19 3,289