The main structure is 2,548 feet 10-11/32 inches long. Of that, 2,201 feet is a through truss design with the truss work above the bridge deck, while 347 feet has the truss work under the deck. Starting from the Memphis side, the spans are 186 feet 3-19/32 inches long, 790 feet 5-1/4 inches, 621 feet, 604 feet 1-1/2 inches, and 347 feet. The remaining 2,424 feet on the west end of the river crossing is a steel tower trestle. These bridge spans match the lengths of the bridge spans on the older Frisco Bridge located just downstream. This was required by the US Army Corps of Engineers to ensure that the piers would line up and not further encroach on the navigation channels.
A 14 foot wide roadway was hung off of each side of the railroad bridge. This allowed highway traffic to use the Harahan Bridge from 1917 to 1949. The highway lanes were removed after the new US-40 bridge opened (later to become the I-55 bridge). Some of the concrete for these lanes still exists on the west end of the river crossing, along with the ramps that carried the traffic up to the bridge. A short section of pavement for the westbound lane still exists on the east end of the bridge.
This bridge was called the Rock Island Bridge when construction started. Before the bridge was finished, Rock Island Railroad president J.T. Harahan was killed in a automobile accident. His car was struck, by of all things, a train. As a result, the new bridge was renamed the Harahan Bridge.
On the afternoon of September 17, 1928, the eastbound highway lane, which consisted of wooden planks over a steel frame, caught fire near pier #1 (about 180 feet from the Memphis side). The eastbound lane was totally consumed in the fire along the entire length of the 790 foot span. The westbound lanes were burned an additional 180 feet to the west of pier #2, destroying the roadway on part of the 621 foot long span. The bridge was closed for several months. A total of 950 tons of new structural steel was installed, and a more fire resistant roadway was installed.
The Harahan may yet sport a new roadway sometime in the future. There is currently a proposal to extend the Mississippi River Trail across the Harahan Bridge by reinstalling a deck on one of the traffic lanes to serve as a pedestrian and bicycle crossing. This would make for some spectacular views of the great river.
The photo above is looking west from the riverbank on the Memphis side of the river from between the Harahan and Frisco railroad bridges. This is a rarely seen view of the Harahan Bridge given that it is difficult to access this location.