Our View: Don’t let bridge closure happen without a fight

It remains apparent that regardless of the two options Tennessee highway officials decide upon in reference to closing the Memphis and Arkansas Bridge for the Crump Boulevard roundabout and the Interstate 55 interchange construction project, the economic impact it will have on this entire Mid-South Region will be enormous. We all know very well the ramifications that will affect everything from the trucking industry, retail, tourism, and in particular Southland Park Gaming and Racing, emergency services as well as the scores of local residents that must travel across the Mississippi River on a daily basis. We’ve been told the two proposals TDOT is considering will be an economic disaster that will have a far reaching impact on not only the Mid South but the entire southeast region. This battle with TDOT has been going on since last June when Tennessee officials agreed to postpone the project following repeated meetings with business leaders, elected officials from both the local and state level. But, the options TDOT officials have come up with will do absolutely nothing to prevent major traffic issues on both major intestates passing through Crittenden County. One option the Metropolitan Planning Organization suggested TDOT officials to consider would keep the bridge open and save an estimated $50 million. MPO Study Director Eddie Brawley has said that TDOT promised him they would consider their proposal but as of now they haven’t responded. For what they’re worth, which in our opinion is very little to nothing, TDOT’s options boil down to which one is the worst. First choice was revised from five years to now six years with one lane each way and absolutely not big rig trucks allowed. The second plan calls for a three year project with traffic completely shutting down for nine months with all Interstate 55 traffic diverted to Interstate 40. Listen here, it doesn’t take a degree in civil engineering to clearly understand the negative consequences of both these unacceptable plans. It is with total ignorance on the part of these governmental bureaucrats not to acknowledge the negative economic ramifications. Opponents on this side of the Mississippi River have relentlessly tried to convince TDOT officials their two options aren’t the only ones that should be considered. In fact, a plant presented to TDOT by the Metropolitan Planning Organization is cheaper and a faster alternative. A recent correspondence to TDOT from the MPO offers a simplified design saying the existing proposal was over built for the traffic the bridge can handle and touted the option that leaves the bridge open with minimal traffic interruptions while offering a much smaller construction cost. It is become very clear from the attitude TDOT officials have that it really doesn’t matter much how must begging, pleading or complaining is done any recommendations other than theirs doesn’t mean much, if anything whatsoever. From the perspective of those of us on this side of the river, we should continue to let our voices be heard and arguments be heard, including the input of our governor, attorney general and other state officials. As a possible last resort, let’s not forget their are possibly legal options that can be taken.

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