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John A. Weeks III
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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Benjamin G. Humphreys Bridge
Former US-82 Mississippi River Crossing At Greenville
Greenville, Mississippi

US-82 Bridge

• Structure ID: NBI: 0000000000M1536.
• Location: River Mile 531.3.
• River Elevation: 92 Feet.
• Highway: US-82.
• Daily Traffic Count: 7,200 (2002).
• Bridge Type: Continuous Steel Truss Through Deck.
• Length: 9,957 Feet Overall, 840 Foot Longest Clear Span.
• Width: 24 Feet, 2 Lanes.
• Navigation Channel Width: 800 Feet.
• Height Above Water: 130 Feet.
• Date Built: Opened October 1940, Closed August 4, 2010.
The Mississippi River would often change paths before the great river was tamed by the US Army Corps of Engineering. Once such change in the 1930s suddenly left the river city of Greenville, Mississippi, about 7 miles from the river. Following that event, the City of Natchez started working on a new river bridge. A bit of political maneuvering found the same set of blueprints being used to build a new river bridge over the new river channel just west of Greenville.

The Benjamin G. Humphreys Bridge opened late in 1940. It soon became apparent that the bridge was a navigation hazard. It turns out that there is a very swift cross-current where the bridge is located. Riverboat operators have to round a sharp bend, then aim for one of the bridge piers, with the current pushing the head of the barge tow away from the pier at the last second. This is something that only highly experienced river pilots can attempt, and it is something that has gone wrong with deadly consequences a number of times. Replacing the bridge became more of a matter of safety than a structural issue.

An interesting design feature of the bridge are the arms that extend from the upriver side of the bridge. They carry electrical and communications lines across the river. Normally, those lines would be buried in trenches in the riverbed. But due to the fast current, the lines were repeatedly uncovered and snagged by anchor lines. The revenue from leasing space for these utilities allowed the toll to be removed from the bridge in 1950.

Another interesting fact about this bridge is that it is almost entirely in Arkansas, including most of the east approach to the bridge. The state line between Arkansas and Mississippi was established to be the center of the main channel of the river. Over the years, the river has changed course several times in this area. At the bridge site, the river has scoured a channel that moved west several thousand feet. As a result, both ends of the bridge are in Arkansas, and only the easternmost piers of the approach road are located in Mississippi. This was the only bridge on the lower Mississippi River where the state line boundary does not follow the current main river channel. The new cable stayed Greenville Bridge built just downstream now shares this same geographical quirk.

Ben Humphreys was a member of the US House of Representatives, elected in 1902. He fought for flood control on the lower Mississippi, a fight that was largely in vain until after the massive flood of 1912. He is regarded as the father of flood control in the delta region.

A project to replace the Benjamin G. Humphreys bridge started in 2001. The new bridge was planned to be a giant cable stayed structure, one of the largest in North America. The new bridge was completed in 2006, but both Arkansas and Mississippi had difficulty funding the approach spans. As a result, the new bridge was completed, but with 100 foot drop-offs at each end, being the classic bridge to nowhere. Each state finally did fund their approach spans, with Mississippi being complete in 2008 and Arkansas being complete in 2009. However, the projects to tie the new approaches into the old highway were even later. The Mississippi side was completed in 2010, but the Arkansas side is still under construction as this was written in 2011. A temporary cross-over was built on the Arkansas side, allowing traffic to be shifted onto the new Greenville Bridge on August 4, 2010.

Once the new bridge was opened, work started on dismantling the old bridge. Work started on the trestle spans on the east side of the Mississippi River. Many spans were removed with cranes, however, the last span leading to the truss spans was dropped using explosives. The center of the main bridge span was disconnected and lowered onto barges using strand jacks (cables suspended from the bridge). When I visited the site in early September of 2011, the east and west truss spans were still standing, as was the trestle spans on the west side of the Mississippi River.

The Humphreys Bridge was the scene of a 1953 airplane crash. A jet pilot from nearby Greenville Air Force Base attempted to fly under the bridge. He missed. The aircraft was a total loss, the pilot was fatally injured, and the bridge suffered $175,000 in damage. The clipping below was sent to me by Virginia Flesher, whose husband was stationed at the air base when this accident happened. In fact, I had originally repeated an often misreported date of 1951, which I was happy to finally be able to correct.

US-82 Bridge
The photo at the top of the page is the downriver face of the Humphreys Bridge as seen from the riverbank on the west side of the Mississippi River. The far shore is the state of Mississippi. The photo below is the upriver face of the bridge as seen from a side road on the Arkansas side of the great river.

US-82 Bridge
US-82 Bridge
The photo above is the truss superstructure as seen from a parking area located under the bridge on the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River. This parking area is being used by the crew building the new cable stay bridge just downriver. The photo below is looking west from the same location at the approach span heading into Arkansas.

US-82 Bridge
US-82 Bridge
The photo above is looking southeast from a boat ramp located upstream of the Arkansas side of the bridge. The photo below is the first photo of a three photo set showing a typical river crossing heading westbound towards Arkansas. This photo is a view traveling on the relatively level section of the approach spans on the far east end of the structure.

US-82 Bridge
US-82 Bridge
These two photos are the final two photos of a three photo set showing a typical bridge crossing heading westbound into Arkansas. The photo above is the transition between the relatively level approach spans to the ramp heading up to the truss spans. Note that this photo shows that the truss spans are absolutely level. The photo above is entering the east portal of the truss spans. Note the power lines attached to the north side of the truss.

US-82 Bridge
US-82 Bridge
The photo above is the end of the line for old highway US-82. The old right of way still serves Harlow's Casino, Resort, and Hotel, but ends at the west side of the casino property. A single lane haul road leads up to the location of the abutment of the trestle section of the old bridge. The trestle has been removed on the east side of the Mississippi River when this photo was taken in early September, 2011. The photo below is the west approach to the structure. While the road is closed, crews are still using the approach to support the demolition. The bridge abutment is located near the power poles.

US-82 Bridge
US-82 Bridge
These two photos are looking upstream from the deck of the new Greenville Bridge. I shot several other photos of the old bridge while crossing the new bridge, but the camera autofocus locked onto the bridge guard rail, rendering the bridge out of focus. The photo above is the eastern of the truss spans, while the photo below shows the western span and the gap over the navigation channel.

US-82 Bridge
US-82 Bridge
These are two views of the Benjamin G. Humphreys bridge main truss span being dismantled. The photo above is the first span on the west side of the Mississippi River, while the photo below shows the first span on the east side of the river. The main navigation channel span has already been removed.

US-82 Bridge
US-82 Bridge
These two photos are additional views of the main truss spans being dismantled. The photo above is the span on the east side of the river, while the photo below is the span on the west side of the river. The vantage point is a boat landing located just upstream of the bridge site on the west bank of the Mississippi River. I suspect that the east span will be trimmed back similar to the west span, and then explosives will be used to drop the spans off the piers.

US-82 Bridge
US-82 Bridge
The photo above is the base of the west main bridge pier. A hole has been drilled into the tower base, likely to provide a path for inspectors to gain access to the interior of the pier for planning an explosive demolition. The photo above is the east main bridge tower of the new Greenville Bridge, located 2,750 feet downstream of the old bridge.

US-82 Bridge
US-82 Bridge
The photo above is the last deck plate girder trestle span leading up to the main truss span. It crosses an access road leading to a grain terminal, and the staging area for the Greenville Bridge project. The photo below is the deck plate girder trestle on the west side of the Mississippi River as it crosses over a slough.

US-82 Bridge
US-82 Bridge
The photo above is the west bridge abutment. The photo below is a culvert passing through the approach to the west bridge abutment.

US-82 Bridge

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