A key design decision for the I-69 project is where to cross the Mississippi River. A number of alternatives were looked at. One popular idea was to cross just north and west of Memphis, providing another river crossing for the Memphis area. It was later decided to stay on the east side of the river through Memphis, and cross somewhere in Mississippi. At the same time, the people of Greenville wanted a new bridge to replace the existing sub-standard US-82 bridge. They were afraid that if the new Great River Bridge was built, they would never get a new US-82 crossing.
In the end, a new bridge at Greenville was funded, while I-69 continues to move forward more slowly. As of 2005, the new US-82 crossing in Greenville is about 60% complete. The Great River Bridge is now known as the Charles W. Dean Bridge (named after one of the early engineers on the project). The final location of the bridge will be between Benoit, Mississippi, and Arkansas City, Arkansas. As of 2009, the bridge has been approved by Congress for funding, but has not actually been funded yet. The state of Arkansas began to purchase land for the bridge starting in October, 2006.
The two images on this page are renderings prepared for the design study. They show a very large cable stayed bridge with a 1,500 foot clear span flanked by over 4 miles of elevated highway. The rendering above is a view looking to the north. The photo below is looking northeast. The main span is located very close to the Mississippi side of the great river due to the navigation channel being along the east shore of the river.
Update—the projected 2010 opening date has long since passed, and construction of the bridge has not yet started as this update is written in the autumn of 2011. Arkansas does have funding for purchasing property for the right of way, and is in the process of acquiring that land. Construction of the approaches was slated to start in 2011, but that appears to not have happened. The state is, however, working to build a connection between I-530 in Pine Bluff and future I-69 in Wilmar. As a result, it appears that I-69 is moving forward, but much more slowly than was expected ten years ago.