FOX13 Investigates: What happened to the plans for a third bridge over the river?

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Plans for a third bridge over the Mississippi River were in the works more than a decade ago until they faded away.

FOX13 Investigates is taking a closer look into what happened.

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“We would need a third bridge to accommodate the transportation it wasn’t just the idea that one of them would go out,” said Rep. Steve Cohen, Democrat from Memphis.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation conducted a feasibility study in 2006 exploring possible connections. The report shows a new bridge could range from $449 to 642 million.

TDOT started the initial planning and environmental studies for the Southern Gateway Project in 2011. This project was designed to improve cross-river travel for both people and freight over the Mississippi River.

The 2011 report included seven potential locations for a new bridge but no other updates are found after 2011.

FOX13 Investigates found the original project manager and engineering consult for Southern Gateway Project. One person is no longer part of the firm and we’re waiting for a call back from the other.

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Congressman Cohen said the project faded away because of cost and location.

“Some people wanted to put in Tipton County, there are others who wanted to put it down in Mississippi and then of the people of Memphis and the chamber feel that it needs to be near the I-55 bridge because its already got certain conditions met,” said Cohen.

Greater Memphis Chamber officials said the city can’t afford to delay discussions about a third bridge any longer.

“If we kept going back then we would be in an even better position now regarding a third bridge,” said Bobby White, chief public policy officer for the Greater Memphis Chamber.

White said he wasn’t with the Greater Memphis Chamber back in 2011 when the Southern Gateway project was up for discussion.

But now he is and he said the Chamber is leading the latest charge about a third bridge in the area.

“Using this moment to illustrate our need for that third bridge and all that it could bring and all that it could do, for not just Memphis but for the nation,” said White.

White said they’ve met with TDOT, both city and county mayors and even the governor over the last year, well before the discovery of this sizable crack in the bridge.

But now, he said there’s more momentum to revisit previous studies and finish what was started more than a decade ago.

“We know this isn’t something that’s going to happen in the next 1, 2, even 5 years, this is one of those projects where you have to get the planning and studying necessary because it’s years down the line before it gets done,” said White.