Monday, May 2, 2016
The Memphis And Arkansas River Bridge
Postcard of an aerial view of the Memphis and Harahan Bridges spanning the Mississipi River from Memphis, Tennessee to Arkansas
The Memphis & Arkansas Bridge (per its nameplates), also known as the Memphis-Arkansas Bridge or Memphis-Arkansas Memorial Bridge, is a cantilevered through truss bridge carrying Interstate 55 across the Mississippi River between West Memphis, Arkansas and Memphis, Tennessee. Memphians refer to this bridge as the "Old Bridge" to distinguish it from the "New Bridge", or Hernando de Soto Bridge, upstream.
The Memphis & Arkansas Bridge also carries U.S. Highways 61, 64, 70 and 79 from Memphis to West Memphis; it also carried U.S. Highway 63 prior to its truncation (and later rerouting) in Arkansas. The western terminus of Tennessee State Route 1 sits on the Tennessee-Arkansas boundary halfway across the bridge.
The bridge consists of five Warren through trusses, each with a length of 790 feet (240 m). Combined with the approach segments, the bridge's total length is 5,222 feet (1,592 m). Completed in 1949, it is the only bridge spanning the Mississippi River designed to carry exclusively vehicular traffic that was built before 1950. it was designed by Modjeski and Desoto, successors to the firm that designed the Harahan Bridge, built in 1916 to carry vehicular and rail traffic. The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.
Having been built before the introduction of the Interstate Highway System, the span was not built to Interstate Highway standards, lacking the concrete barrier between the different directions of traffic which was added later. It was also built with a sidewalk on either side of the roadway, positioned just outside the steel truss girders. The sidewalks, now also separated from the traffic lanes by concrete barriers, are accessible from Memphis city sidewalks on the Tennessee side, but give way to grassy slopes on the shoulders of I-55 on the Arkansas side.
The sidewalk and bridge is listed as part of the Mississippi River Trail. However, travel is not recommended across the sidewalk and is prohibited on the vehicle traffic lanes of the bridge, being an Interstate highway crossing. On August 12, 2012, a cyclist was killed after being struck by a vehicle when using the shoulder approaching the bridge. In 2016, a pedestrian/bicycle path on the neighboring Harahan Bridge will make crossing the river safer and will eliminate the need to use the I-55 bridge.
On Tuesday, December 23, 2014, numerous news sources reported that the FBI had released an official statement warning local law enforcements of a threat to the bridge during that month. The FBI stated, "According to an anonymous complainant... ISIS instructed an ISIS member, a presumed USPER (U.S. person) in Memphis, with a direct order to blow up the Memphis-Arkansas bridge on an unknown date, activating ISIS terror cells in the United States." Security was heightened, but the threat was later discredited.