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By Andy Ashby - Memphis Business Journal -
The Harahan Bridge project is getting a boost from a well-known local group, the Hyde Family Foundations.
The organization is donating $250,000 to support the construction and development of a bike and pedestrian crossing at the Harahan Bridge.
The project is the centerpiece of the recently awarded $14.9 million federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery IV grant for the $29.7 million Main Street to Main Street Multimodal Connector project.
The overall project, which includes improvements to Downtown Memphis’ Main Street and West Memphis’ Broadway Avenue, includes $1 million in donations from the private sector.
Currently there is no safe bicycle or pedestrian crossing of the Mississippi River at Memphis.
“The Harahan Bridge will be an unparalleled attraction on our riverfront and will allow Memphians and visitors alike the opportunity to connect to the river in a new and exciting way,” Barbara Hyde, president of the Hyde Family Foundations, said. “It also provides a critical link in the rapidly expanding network of trails, greenways, bike lanes, open spaces and parks that is connecting our community.”
Completed in 1917, the Harahan Bridge was designed for train, vehicle and pedestrian use. After the Memphis-Arkansas bridge (currently I-55) was completed in 1949, the roadways of the Harahan fell into disuse and the wooden planks that formed the roadways were removed in 1954. Rail service has continued, with the bridge servicing 20-25 trains daily on its two tracks. The cantilevered structural steel supports for the roadway are still in place and in good condition, providing a base for the reconstruction of the pathway across the river. The project will include a new surface for the bicycle- and pedestrian-ways, and new safety fencing along the walkway.
According to the Rails to Trails Conservancy, every day thousands of Americans run, bike and hike trails located along active rail lines. There are more than 1,000 “rails to trails” paths in the U.S., of which there are more than 60 “rails with trails” sites. Rails with trails sites, like the Harahan Bridge Project, are built directly adjacent to active railroad corridors and offer shared use paths that are physically separated from motorized vehicular traffic by an open space or barrier.
Started by Charlie McVean and operated by Greg Maxted, the Harahan Bridge Project’s primary mission is to coordinate the conversion of the bridge into a new pedestrian and bike friendly byway across the Mississippi River. MBJ recently explored this aspect of the project in its print edition; click here to read it.