TDOT moving forward with bridge project
Revised plans include one-lane traffic on I-55 up to five years
State Senator Keith Ingram and West Memphis Mayor Marco McClendon learned during a regional meeting of mayors, the plans for Crump Boulevard and Interstate 55 interchange construction project that would have closed the old bridge for construction had been nixed. The economic impact to both sides of the river led The Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner Clay Bright to rescind plans for fully closing the bridge to pursue “more traditional construction delivery methods.” The Federal Highway Administration joined TDOT publishing in the Federal Register its notice of intent stating “some lanes will remain open.” The previous plan would have shut down the Memphis-Arkansas Bridge completely for nine months.
“It’s off the table,” said Ingram after the meeting.
With only one lane open each way, the project was initially planned to take three years, but was later revised to take up to five years to accommodate providing an open lane in both directions. Plans call for diverting interstate trucking from Interstate 55 to Interstate 40 and creating a detour through Mid-town Interstate 240. The trucking detour adds six miles for a trip from West Memphis to President’s Island.
Both the Arkansas and Tennessee departments of transportation along with the Memphis Metropolitan Planning Organization met with mayors from across the mid-south including the Forrest City Mayor Cedric Williams.
“They are not going to close down the old bridge,” said McClendon. “They are going to make other arrangements.”
“They’ll have to hold more hearings,” said Ingram. “They are back to the drawing board.”
Ingram said he heard three concerns about the $60 million project during the meeting from officials east of the river. The 30-foottall flyover looking down on the French Fort neighborhood seemed unpalatable to elected officials.
Those in the meeting feared the Class A Highway allowing 65 mile-anhour feeding into the class F bridge with a 55milean- hour limit would create a bottleneck and increase accidents on the Memphis side. Finally, elected representatives doubted how well semi-trucks would negotiate the traffic roundabout design of the interchange at Crump Boulevard.
“It’s a Tennessee project and those are things for them to solve,” said Ingram. “The main thing from our point of view is the bridge will not completely close.”
McClendon indicated TDOT had begun rethinking the entire project and had reopened the longtime discussions of a third
“They’ll have to hold more hearings… They are back to the drawing board… It’s a Tennessee project and those are things for them to solve.
The main thing from our point of view is the bridge will not completely close.” —
State Senator Keith Ingram on TDOT plans for a project on the Tennessee side of the Mississippi River bridge across the Mississippi in the mid-south region. The mayor explained the rationale for dropping the roadblock plan. The TDOT Commissioner’s letter said the reason for changing from the full closure option was to avoid the futility of spending time and money for a more detailed economic impact assessment.
“The reasons for not doing it were because it impacted the quality of life, economic development and they have heard about all the good news coming from West Memphis,” said McClendon.
West Memphis Metropolitan Planning Director Eddie Brawley confirmed that the full bridge closure option was rescinded but noted the interchange project was funded and remained on the on schedule for the coming year.
“They are going through on the project,” said Brawley. “Rather than completely close the bridge for nine months, they’ve opted to go to one lane each direction. It’s in their current Transportation Improvement Plan for fiscal year 2020.”