New plan for bridge park due in March

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 13, 2005

[1/13/05]Vicksburg Bridge Commission members will hear new plans to convert the U.S. 80 Mississippi River Bridge into a park at their March meeting.

Lynn Wolfe of ABMB Engineers said he will present the updated proposal during the meeting that will be at 9:30 a.m. March 9. The report will include plans for converting a portion of the 74-year-old span into a pedestrian and bicycle park, the cost of the project and safety features.

The plan is expected to be similar to the proposal first introduced in 1999 when the idea of creating a park over the river was first pitched. That plan would have cost $2 million five years ago, but would have covered the full length of the bridge.

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It included lighting, benches, landscaping and a bicycle path, but was dropped after a nonbinding referendum indicated nearly 2-1 public support for reopening the bridge to traffic.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors has since ruled that option out and given the commission, appointed to manage the county-owned bridge, permission to explore other options.

In the revised plan, commission members are calling for a park that will reach less than halfway across, to the state line with Louisiana. It is also supposed to include options for elderly and handicap access to the bridge.

Wolfe did not indicate how much creating the park would cost.

The updated plans are expected to cost $20,000 to $40,000.

The bridge has been closed to vehicles since 1998 due to deterioration of the roadbed. Most operational funding comes from a per-car toll charged to Kansas City Southern for use of the railroad tracks that run parallel to the roadbed. KCS is on record opposing consideration or creation of a park, saying the county is violating lease terms and creating a safety hazard.