History of Mississippi’s Bridge System

JACKSON, MISS.—On March 29, 2016, the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) began its second century of service to the people of the state, 100 years after the Mississippi Legislature created the Mississippi State Highway Commission in 1916. MDOT is celebrating throughout the year while recognizing major milestones that shaped the state’s transportation history.

Until 1940, the only mode of transportation for freight or vehicular traffic across the Mississippi River was by ferry. This changed with the opening of the Benjamin G. Humphreys Bridge connecting U.S. Highway 82 from Greenville to Lake Village, Ark. With a main span of 840 feet, it was the longest span for a highway bridge along the Mississippi River at that time. The two lane cantilever bridge was named after the former United States Congressman from Greenville.

Although the bridge made it to the end of the century, it was replaced in 2010 with the new $336 million bridge connecting the Mississippi Delta to Interstate 55 and several other four-lane highways such as U.S. Highway 61 and Highway 65 in Arkansas. The 378-foot center-span is one of the longest cable-stayed spans in the country. MDOT recently held a ceremony naming the bridge the Jesse Brent Memorial Bridge. Brent helped transform both the City of Greenville and the inland waterways industry.

The Natchez-Vidalia Bridge became the second bridge over the Mississippi River and opened shortly after the Benjamin G. Humphreys Bridge in 1940. This two way bridge carried U.S. Highway 84 traffic from Natchez to Vidalia, La. An additional bridge would be completed in 1988, expanding traffic to four lanes. In 2015, MDOT completed a unique, once in a lifetime project replacing the 75-year-old pins and links from the original bridge.

Over two decades after the bridges in Natchez and Greenville opened, Mississippi saw the birth of the Helena Bridge in 1961. The bridge connects Lula to Helena, Ark., and carries U.S. Highway 49 across the Mississippi River. In 1973, the Vicksburg Bridge opened, carrying Interstate 20 over the Mississippi River from Vicksburg to Delta, La. This bridge was the state’s fourth bridge across the Mississippi River and was built next to the Old Vicksburg Bridge, which carried U.S. Highway 80 across the river.

From the Mississippi Delta to the Gulf Coast, Mississippi’s bridge system has evolved considerably over the past century. Read more about Mississippi’s evolving transportation history, including an interactive timeline, “MDOT 100 Moment” video series featuring Mississippi Native and American Country Music Recording Artist Steve Azar, and information on a time capsule sealed on MDOT’s centennial anniversary, at GoMDOT.com/MSDOT100.

Follow @MississippiDOT on social media using the hashtag #MSDOT100.

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