Harahan Bridge Project

Photograph Courtesy Harahan Bridge Project

Why It Matters:

Aside from a new roadway, connected to existing greenways, created specifically for pedestrians connecting Memphis and Arkansas across the Mississippi River, this project includes improvements to streetscapes, utilities, sidewalks, roadways, a new drainage system, and repairs to portions of Main Street in downtown Memphis, and Broadway Avenue in West Memphis. “[The Harahan Bridge Project] is the region’s most ambitious and impressive bicycle/pedestrian project to date.” — Steve Cohen, U.S. House of Representatives


West Memphis Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Downtown Memphis Commission, Memphis Urban Area MPO, Riverfront Development Corporation, Hyde Family Foundations, Greater Memphis Greenline, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, Tennessee Department of Transportation, Shelby and Crittenden County residents and businesses, numerous bike and running clubs, Amtrak, Union Pacific Railroad, Mississippi River Trail, Shelby Farms Park Conservatory, Wolf River Conservancy, Memphis Regional Design Center, Mississippi River Corridor-Tennessee, Livable Memphis, Sierra Club, Friends for Our Riverfront, Tennessee Parks & Greenways Foundation, Arkansas Delta Byways, Mississippi River Parkway Commission

Leaders and Consultants:

Greg Maxted, Harahan Bridge Project; Mike Carpenter, Main Street to Main Street Connector project; Rep. Steve Cohen, U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; A C Wharton, City of Memphis; Mark Luttrell, Shelby County government; William H. Johnson, West Memphis government; Charles McVean, McVean Trading and Investments; Paul Morris and Andy Kitsinger, Downtown Memphis Commission; and Pragati Srivastava, Memphis Urban Area MPO

Area Boundaries:

Main St. Memphis, Broadway Ave. West Memphis, Harahan Bridge

Area History:

The Harahan Bridge, completed in 1916, is the second of four bridges to cross the Mississippi River from Memphis to Arkansas and for a time was the only passage for automobiles south of St. Louis. Originally named “Rock Island Bridge” it was renamed after J.T. Harahan, a Memphis businessman who was killed in a train accident. It opened to train traffic in 1916 and the narrow, one-lane roadways were added in 1917. From then until the completion of the four-lane Memphis and Arkansas Bridge (currently I-55) in 1949, the Harahan provided access across the river to both trains and automobiles. The new bridge allowed for safer, quicker passage for cars, and the Harahan wooden roadways were eventually ripped up.

Current Conditions:

The 96-year-old Harahan Bridge is currently owned by the Union Pacific Railroad Co. and still transports trains across the river. With the wooden planks that used to form the road gone, the roadway on the Arkansas side now descends below the railroad grade and is largely overgrown by plants, but the structural steel for the roadways is still in place.

Ideal Situation:

A new 12-foot-wide, 1-mile-long roadway friendly to cyclists, walkers, and strollers connecting the city of Memphis and Crittenden County, Arkansas, across the Mississippi River on the north side of Harahan Bridge. Additionally, the Main Street to Main Street Connector project is a 10-mile regional, multi-modal corridor that will increase and improve transportation between the Memphis metro area and Arkansas which includes upgrades to downtown Memphis’ Main Street and Riverfront and West Memphis’ Broadway Avenue, among other renovations such as a new drainage system and streetscaping, to name a few. The two communities would be linked in a more direct and personal way than the existing interstate. Residents and business owners in both West Memphis and downtown Memphis would ideally experience a cultural and economic benefit.

How To Get the Ideal:

Still developing. The Main Street to Main Street Connector project and the Harahan Bridge project have already combined in order to increase their chances for federal funding, which paid off in June 2012 when the projects were awarded a federal grant for nearly half of their expected cost. With proper funding, the project’s estimated completion date is set for late 2014.

Current Funding Situation:

In June 2012 the project was awarded the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) IV Discretionary Grant of $14.9 million, Hyde Family Foundations donated $250,000, $2 million in grant matching funds was approved by the Downtown Memphis Commission, and $1 million was provided by private investors totaling $18.2 million.

Funding Goal:

About $30 million.

Companies/Jobs Created:

Still developing. Many firms would be utilized for planning, design, architecture, engineering, and construction work.

How You Can Help:

Be on the lookout for volunteer or fundraising opportunities or get involved with the Downtown Memphis Commission.


Greg Maxted, executive director, Harahan Bridge Project, at 202-4141, by email at harahanproject@gmail.com, or go to harahanbridgeproject.com.

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