Construction began Monday on the more than $17.5 million project to add a bicycle and pedestrian pathway across the Harahan Bridge.
The Harahan Bridge project is part of the $43 million Main Street to Main Street Multi-Modal Connector project. That 10-mile project will link Downtown Memphis with West Memphis, Arkansas with more walkable and bike-able streets, pathways, and trails.
The beginning of the Harahan Bridge portion of the project — dubbed Big River Crossing — was marked with a brief presentation Monday afternoon at the Church of the River, which overlooks the Mississippi River and the Harahan Bridge.
Here’s what some of the speakers had to say on Monday:
Paul Morris - president of the Downtown Memphis Commission and project director of the Main Street to Main Street Multi-Modal Connector
“This day has long been anticipated. Back since the 1970s, about the decade I was born, there was an article in the predecessor to the Memphis
magazine that talked about the city’s plans to re-purpose the old wagon-way next to the Harahan train bridge for bikes and pedestrians.
This is back in the 70s. Well, that effort didn’t come to fruition. Back in the (1980s) there was another effort by our community to do the same thing. Well, that effort failed. In the (1990s), we tried it again and we didn’t get there. But today, we’re starting the project.
This is the day we’re actually starting construction and why we’re marking the occasion. It’s really an exciting day for Memphis.”
Steve Cohen - U.S. House of Representatives, 9th District
“This is one of my proudest deliverables to the city of Memphis. Since the end of earmarks, it’s hard for Congresspeople to deliver direct projects. We help on grants but on projects in which we are the pivot point, there are few.
This is one where the city of Memphis and the Downtown Commission wanted to get monies to fix up part of Main street. It was one of our early proposals. (Commodities trader Charles McVean) came up with the part about the bridge.
So, the easy political thing to do was to double your money and put them together. We put them together and (former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood) worked with us and we got this project.
It’s been a long time in coming but it’s going too be a long time in keeping Memphis as a primary spot for people to come to, to immigrate, and enjoy coming here. It’s going to make it a more livable city, a better city, and a healthier city. This bridge project is going to be on the map.”
Charles McVean - owner, McVean Trading; citizen advocate for Main Street to Main Street Multi-Modal Project
On speaking with (former Arkansas House of Representatives Speaker Robert Moore):
“I said, Mr. Speaker, I’ve been here in Little Rock overnight and I’ve been down to see the Big Dam Bridge, which is a wonderful tourist attraction for Little Rock.
Mr. Speaker, please don’t take this the wrong way. I’m very impressed with your Big Dam Bridge but if you’ll come over to Memphis here in a little while, we’re going to show you what a damn, big bridge looks like.”