By John Rech
The BRT, it’s not a new gut busting fast food sandwich.
Instead the Big River
Trail is the bicycle and pedestrian way connecting Main Street in Memphis to Broadway, the main street in West Memphis via the Harahan Bridge. Project progress was reported in the West Memphis MPO quarterly meeting this month where the group helped the project out of a pickle.
The Big River Crossing is the bridge link on the trail over the Mississippi River, formerly referred to as the Main2Main Initiative, or simply the Harahan Bridge Project. A new name was coined for the West Memphis Eco-Park too. As the
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City Planning Director Paul Luker
Developers still eyeing 2016 opening bicycle/pedestrian trail descends from the bridge heading westward between the two Interstate bridges, the path will now roll through the newly-Christened Delta River Regional Park.
Elevating cycle tourism is the big hope for the Big River Trail. The route will offer views of the Chickasaw Bluffs from the Delta Flats, framed by the signature M-shaped Hernando DeSoto Bridge and the skyline of Memphis juxtaposes the undeveloped Natural State landscape. With a grand opening set for later this year, one thrill soon to be experienced by trekkers is crossing on a boardwalk platform that is not only 100 feet above the water level in the river but also puts pedestrians closer to moving trains than anywhere
The good news MPO commissioners heard earlier
this month was the West Memphis trail head construction has been completed. A winding cement drive slows vehicle traffic for cycling safety that leads to five parking spots next to an iron gateway just south of the local landmark Pancho’s. The cement surface is marked well with street striping and a posted trail map. Benches and bike racks complete the trail beginning. The trail head build cost $92,000.
The estimate for the inaugural section of the BRT in West Memphis through the Delta Regional River Park stood at $1.5 million according to City Planner Paul Luker who described the route after the MPO Policy meeting.
“It’ll go down Dacus Road, across easements we’ve got on private property along the river bank to Dacus Lake,” said Luker, “and then onto Robinson Road and loop back under Interstate 40 tying back into Dacus Road.”
The committee also heard Big River Crossing needed a boost in bucks. The original cost estimate to span the Harahan rang the till for $17.5 million. Unforeseen construction obstacles blew the original budget. According to MPO Study Director Eddie Brawley, high water washed away some fill dirt, and extra heavy rust prompted more under girding for the board walk.
The trail itself was moved 50 feet when monumental old construction debris was found during bed excavation.
Brawley pointed to Clean Air funds under the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program (CMAQ) as the fix. CMAQ currently views bike routes as a way to reduce vehicle emissions which opened the door to a solution for the MPO to help pay for the Big River Crossing.
“They’ve asked us to help out,” said Brawley who pointed to a funding source for the over runs. “We have about $800,000 of CMAQ funds that is uncommitted. They’ve got a local match for $160,000 so that would be $640,000 in CMAQ funds which we’d add to that for the M2M 2013. We have to go through the administrative process under Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP), that is what we are doing now. They are in a bind and need this done.”
The MPO voted unanimously to allocate the funds designating them to meet the new expenses.
The West Memphis Advertising and Promotion Commission will meet in joint session with City Council May 19 to hear an update from Big River Strategic Initiative Executive Director Terry Eastin.