3rd Bridge Eyed for Mississippi River

April 23, 2003
Posted at: 10:22 p.m. CDT

WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. -- Ferries and barges on the Mississippi River near West Memphis could be floating under a new bridge in a few years.The states of Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee are working together to find another way across the Mississippi River.

A feasibility study began last May after federal money was set aside to research road projects in Arkansas. Originally, the project was supposed to focus on building an interstate highway between Pine Bluff and West Memphis.

Consultants found that there wasn't enough traffic demand, so they decided to work on designs for another river crossing near Memphis. On Wednesday night, area citizens got a second chance to voice their opinion on those designs.

"I'd like to see another bridge," West Memphis resident Richard Bollinger said. "It would help the traffic situation out here. It's so dangerous."

Bollinger is looking over one of the five possible places the new bridge would be constructed. That route, designated "2A," would go through land he and his brother own west of the port of West Memphis.

"It would take a lot of the truck traffic south of West Memphis," Bollinger said.

Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department officials say the need for a new bridge so close to the other two is to help make travel safer and alleviate traffic congestion where Interstate-40 and Interstate-55 merge. There are four new bridge route possibilities south of I-55. Another plan calls for improving the current I-55 bridge.

"The first two are in the Memphis metropolitan area south of the Pigeon Industrial Park," project supervisor Butch Babineaux said. "The last two alternative concepts are on either side of the Horseshoe Lake in Mississippi.

Engineers are looking at impacts on the environment, land use and traffic. They first spoke with West Memphis residents about the project in October. Now engineers are asking for local opinions once again.

"(The) report documents what those impacts are and then hopefully that will help the decision makers make a good decision on which one is the most cost effective," Babineaux said. "We want to consider what the public has to say before we finalize the study."

Bollinger likes what he sees: "Yes. I like it very much. Especially if it goes 2A instead of the other ones."

Results of the study will be published in about three months. If the project is given the green light, environmental documents would have to be filed and designs would have to be completed.