For sale: One bridge spanning the Mississippi River
Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 16, 2009
Want to buy a bridge? The Mississippi Department of Transportation’s got just the deal for you.
The U.S. 82 bridge spanning the Mississippi River at Greenville, due to be phased out of operation next year by a new structure, is being made available to the public for purchase — so long as it is moved, reassembled and preserved.
The bridge, known as the Benjamin G. Humphreys Bridge, opened Sept. 17, 1940. Positioned just down-river from a 90-degree bend in the Mississippi, its support piers in combination with sometimes-strong currents in the river make it tough for pilots to navigate, said MDOT district engineer Kevin Magee.
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“Sometimes they do it nice, and sometimes they don’t,” he said. “That bridge is the biggest impediment to navigation up and down the entire length of the Mississippi.”
No one knows how many times the bridge has been struck. “It’s the most-hit bridge on the Mississippi River,” he said.
It’s even been struck by an airplane. Pilots from the nearby Greenville Air Force Base tried to fly underneath the bridge, Magee said. One did not make it. The 1951 crash killed the pilot, caused about $175,000 in bridge damage and destroyed the plane.
Despite the crashes and nearly 70 years of standing up to the river’s power, the old bridge is structurally sound, though obsolete because of its narrow roadbed and sharp vertical crest.
The new Greenville bridge, a cable-stayed suspension bridge designed by HNTB engineering and construction services, has actually been complete for about three years, but approaches have only recently been constructed. The road surface, striping and other finish elements will be completed in the next year. MDOT will then begin the demolition of the old bridge unless a plan for buying and saving it is approved.
Unlike Vicksburg’s old U.S. 80 Bridge across the Mississippi, which was privately financed and has been owned and managed by Warren County on a nonprofit basis since the end of World War II, the Humphreys bridge is publicly owned. It was financed in the 1930s by the Public Works Administration and the Reconstruction Finance Administration, costing about $4,447,000. Also unlike the Vicksburg bridge, the bridge connecting Greenville to Arkansas has no rail tracks.
Offering it for sale is a formality for the state.
“Anytime there is a public-type structure that is eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places there must be an offer to preserve it,” Magee said. “It’s a good example of a large through-truss bridge,” Magee said in explaining its historic appeal. “Its age, too, is part of it, and the fact that it has survived a lot of adversity.”
Interested individuals or organizations must submit relocation and preservation proposals, which will be reviewed and must be approved by MDOT, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department, the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program and the Federal Highway Administration. Because it will affect river traffic, the U.S. Coast Guard will also have to approve the plan for removal of the steel truss.
A buyer’s long-term plan is critical to any sale, Magee said. If a proposal is approved, MDOT will reimburse the new owner for relocation costs up to the amount estimated it would cost MDOT to demolish it.
Formal proposals are due by Aug. 14 and may be submitted to Kevin Magee, MDOT District Engineer, P.O. Box 630, Yazoo City, MS 39194. Magee can be reached at 662-746-2513.
Additional historic and structural information is available at www.greenville-bridge.com.
Contact Pamela Hitchins at email@example.com