Either by design or accident, last week while bikers were being wooed and wowed at a meeting to discuss the CSX line, another meeting was happening across town to take comments on planned changes at the I-55/Crump interchange leading to the old bridge. The old bridge has separated sidewalks and is the only way a bicyclist or pedestrian can cross the river for many miles from Memphis.
In response to a question from a bicyclist, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) spokesman made it clear that the State considered this an Interstate project only. We all know that US interstates ban non-motorized transportation. It is not acceptable that Tennessee does not recognize the importance of the Mississippi River Trail (MRT) and acknowledge that they must at least allow access to the bridge to non-motorized types of transport.
If you are also concerned about this, you can make comments directly to TDOT about their Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). Comments must be postmarked no later than July 28th. Comments cannot be anonymous; they should include your name and mailing address, or any other information needed to legally establish your standing on the issue.
Comments may be mailed to:
Tennessee Department of Transportation
Suite 700, James K. Polk Building
505 Deadrick Street
Nashville, TN 37243-0332
Or they may be emailed to: TDOT.Comments@tn.gov
Below is a copy of the comments we are sending. Feel free to use this letter and attach your own name.
Comments to: the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT)
Regarding: I-55/Crump Interchange Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS)
My comments on this project concern bicycle and pedestrian access as discussed in the DEIS in the Executive Summary under “Environmental Commitments – Social Commitments” and later on page 72, Chapter 3, part 8 “Pedestrians and Bicyclists Considerations” – 3.8.1 Affected Environment.
I understand the difficulties in designing such a complex change to an important and busy interchange, and I commend TDOT for promising to consider provisions for bicycle and pedestrian accommodations during the final design phase. Though bike lanes and/or sidewalks may not be practical or safe within the project area, provisions must provide for bicycle and pedestrian access to the French Fort neighborhood.
While the DEIS promises to consider bicycle and pedestrian access into the neighborhood, it is silent about such access to the existing sidewalks on the I-55 bridge over the Mississippi River. In fact, the DEIS states, “Due to the nature of this project, safety issues may prohibit bicycle and pedestrian accommodations within much of the project ROW.” The I-55 bridge is the only Mississippi River crossing available to bicyclists and pedestrians for many miles north and south of Memphis. Importantly, it is identified as the crossing point in Memphis on the Mississippi River Trail (MRT) which runs from Minnesota to Louisiana and is supported by many states and private enterprises interested in preserving and enhancing this route.
It is imperative that the final EIS recognizes the need for access to the bridge by non-motorized means in order to keep the MRT complete. Access could include sidewalks or wide lanes with appropriate speed limits and signs alerting drivers to the presence of bikes and pedestrians. At a minimum, the project must not eliminate access to the bridge from non-motorized transportation.
*Thanks to Bob Rogers for drafting this email*