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By Tom Charlier - The Commercial Appeal -
The federal government will provide a key piece of the funding needed to build a bicycle-pedestrian pathway across the Harahan Bridge over the Mississippi River, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen announced today.
The city of Memphis was awarded a $14.94 million Transportation Improvement Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant that will go toward a $30 million public-private project called Main Street to Main Street. It includes improvements to the Main Street corridor in Memphis and trail connections linking Harahan Bridge with downtown West Memphis.
Proponents of the Harahan Bridge bike-pedestrian pathway, led by businessman Charles McVean, say the route will provide majestic views of the river, spurring tourism and economic development, as well as adding an iconic feature to the area's burgeoning network of trails stretching east to Shelby Farms Park and beyond. The grant is "one of the biggest things that has ever happened to Memphis," McVean said in a statement.
Mayor A C Wharton called the project "an absolutely critical asset in the continuing revitalization of the core of our city connecting the south part of Downtown to the north and Shelby Farms to West Memphis."
The pathway, expected to cost about $11 million, will be built on the north side of the 96-year-old railroad bridge along a cantilevered structure that formerly carried lanes for motor vehicles. A recent report recommeded a 12-foot-wide path made of lightweight aluminum planking.
Other parts of the project include improvements and repairs to the Main Street Trolley, the Central Station rail and bus terminal, and connections linking Harahan with Broadway Boulevard in West Memphis.
The project has received support from local and state officials on both sides of the river. Local governments and private sources are expected to provide the remaining $15 million or so needed for the Main Steet to Main Street project, officials say.