February 16, 2017
Many would say that the relationship between the Mississippi River and the Bluff City is obvious, but some may not realize the obstacle that the river would be without the amazing bridges that extend from Memphis, Tennessee, to West Memphis, Arkansas. Below are facts about each of the four bridges that cross the Big Muddy.
Memphis & Arkansas Bridge (left)
- Also known as the Memphis-Arkansas Bridge
- Opened 1949
- 5,222 feet long
- 52 feet wide
- Traffic from I-55, U.S. 61, U.S. 64, U.S. 70 and U.S. 79 crosses the Mississippi River via the Memphis & Arkansas Bridge
- The 2003 daily traffic record of 40,000 vehicles is 5,000 more than the Hernando DeSoto Bridge 2003 daily traffic record of about 35,000.
Frisco Bridge (middle)
- Opened 1892
- 4,887 feet long
- 30 feet wide
- Upon opening, the Frisco Bridge was the only bridge crossing the Mississippi River south of St. Louis.
- Due to specifications to maximize river navigation, the bridge featured the longest span (791 feet) in the United States when it was built. (Span is the distance between bridge supports.)
Harahan Bridge (right)
- Opened 1917
- 4,973 ft long
- Features Big River Crossing (opened Oct. 22, 2016), currently the longest public pedestrian/bike bridge across the Mississippi River. It ties together paths connecting Main Streets in Memphis, Tenn., and West Memphis, Ark.
- Construction began on the Rock Island Bridge, but before construction was complete, Rock Island Railroad president J.T. Harahan died in an automobile crash with a train. In memory of the late president, the bridge name was changed from Rock Island Bridge to Harahan Bridge.
Hernando DeSoto Bridge (photo below)
- Opened 1973
- 9,432 feet long
- 90 feet wide
- The “M Bridge” is named by the Guiness Book of World Records as the largest free-standing letter of the alphabet in the world.
- The bridge was lit 10 years later on Sept. 5, 1983, after private funds were raised to install the lights.
The Hernando DeSoto Bridge, which carries I-40 traffic, forms a glowing letter “M” at night.
I-55 traffic runs over the Memphis & Arkansas Bridge, the southernmost of the four bridges.
The Frisco Bridge (center) carries only rail traffic.
The Harahan Bridge carries rail traffic and the Big River Crossing.
- Feature photo: Google Maps