Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Harahan Bridge Bike Route Gets $15 million Grant

Posted By on Tue, Jun 19, 2012 at 1:30 PM

  • Downtown Memphis Commission
Biggest story since the Resurrection? Not quite, but you might have thought so by the reaction to the news out of Washington today about the Harahan Bridge Project.

Congressman Steve Cohen announced that Memphis has received a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) IV Discretionary Grant worth $14,939,000 for the Main Street to Main Street Multi-Modal Connector Project — "the region’s most ambitious and impressive bicycle/pedestrian project to date."

Also one of the longest project titles ever. The two Main Streets are in downtown Memphis and West Memphis, Arkansas.

“I’m elated" said Cohen. “These new federal funds will help improve livability in downtown Memphis, will increase tourism, will drive economic development and create jobs, make our city more attractive to young people, and enable people to bike over the historic, scenic Mississippi River.”

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton said the bike project is “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.”

Paul Morris, head of the Downtown Memphis Commission, said “This is huge for Memphis.”

Memphis philanthropist and businessman Charles McVean, who was one of the first proponents of the project, said this grant is “iconic” and “a game-changer” and “one of the biggest things that has ever happened to Memphis.” McVean has invested in a hybrid bike called the Aerobic Cruiser that is designed for long rides and people seeking an assist to pedal power.

The project also will make repairs and improvements to the Main Street Trolley and the Central Station rail (Amtrak) and bus terminal. Eventually it will connect to Shelby Farms by bike.

"I am beyond excited," said Greg Maxted, executive director of the Harahan Bridge Project. "It's gonna be fun."

No one was more excited, however, than Abbott Widdecombe, owner of Tom Sawyer's R.V. Park on the Mississippi River in West Memphis, and the only person I know who has residences in both Memphis and West Memphis.

"This could change the entire dynamic of the river and eastern Arkansas. It will be a must-see, must-do at least one time attraction for everyone who lives in this area," he predicted.

Widdecombe's R.V. park was flooded last year so this is welcome news. He was planning on putting in a restaurant anyway, and, depending on whether the bike trail can be extended to the levee system, he could benefit directly from the Harahan Project.

His grandfather, George T. Kendal, was a timber cruiser for a paper company and he used to travel across the river on the planks of the Harahan on horseback. He bought two sections of land in Crittenden County and filed for the first subdivision in West Memphis.

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