Lawmakers call for third bridge over Mississippi River in Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Two Tennessee state legislators say planning needs to begin immediately for a third bridge in Shelby County crossing the Mississippi River.

At a news conference at the Tennessee Welcome Center Wednesday, Reps. Joe Towns and Dwayne Thompson said the state legislatures in both Tennessee and Arkansas should pass resolutions supporting a new bridge and also get congressional delegations in both states to support the idea.

The Hernando de Soto Bridge has been closed since May 11 after a fracture was discovered in one of its supports. After several days of working 24-hour shifts, crews have finished phase one of the repairs and are preparing to begin phase two. Repairs could take months and traffic has been diverted to the I-55 bridge.

The idea of a third bridge across the Mississippi River near Memphis had been explored in 2006 and again in 2011. Now, Tennessee state legislators want to revive the idea again.

A feasibility study was done 15 years ago, but the major sticking point was where the bridge might be built.

Reps. Towns and Thompson both serve on the House Transportation Committee.

“We need another bridge,” said Towns. “No if’s, and’s, or but’s about it. We simply need another bridge.”

“We have to get Arkansas on board with this, and we have to get the federal government because most of the cost would be borne by the federal government,” said Thompson.

The price tag for a new bridge will ultimately be a major hurdle. The cost will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Given the recent focus on infrastructure nationwide, the two Tennessee house democrats from Shelby County added their voices to the call.

Last week, some Arkansas officials, including West Memphis Mayor Marco McClendon, made similar calls for a third bridge and for infrastructure funding.