In visiting this area, I was curious why two such small towns as Natchez, Mississippi, and Vidalia, Louisiana, could justify not just one but two huge bridges across the Mississippi River. The City of Vidalia web site clears up the issue noting that over 2-million people live within a 200-mile radius of the twin spans, and the bridges carry an average of nearly 30,000 vehicles per day.
The city of Vidalia has been impacted greatly by the river over the years. Vidalia was ground zero during the great flood of 1927. The city flooded in late may. Many residents escaped by ferry boat to high ground on the east side of the river. Those that remained were forced to camp out for several weeks on a narrow levee, the last dry ground for miles. In total, 26,000 square miles of land in seven states were flooded. The outcry lead to the Flood Control Act of 1928, giving the US Army Corps of Engineers the mandate to implement and maintain food control on the great river.
The Mississippi River affected Vidalia again in the late 1930s. The US Army Corps of Engineers developed a plan to cut off a section of the Mississippi River upriver of Vidalia known as the Natchez Gorge. The new river channel and supporting levees would have left much of Vidalia in the river flood plain with no flood protection. To protect their city, the entire city was relocated a mile southwest to higher ground. Over 100 buildings were moved or demolished and rebuilt at the new town site during 1938 and 1939.
The City of Vidalia and Mississippi DOT are collaborating on a project to add lighting to the twin spans. Mississippi DOT will pay for the lighting project, while the city will supply the electrical power to operate the lights. The $3-million project is expected to be complete in the Spring of 2010. It is hoped that the bridges will become an area attraction after the lighting project is compete.
The photo above is a view looking northwest towards the river crossing from an overpass located just east of the bridges. The two truss spans look very similar from a distance despite being built 50 years apart.