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Construction photos of the original bridge, taken by Massman Construction of Kansas City, MO, contractor for both the 1940 and New Greenville bridges. Click to view.
Project Summary: The 1940 Bridge


The original Greenville Bridge was a giant of its time, a steel through-truss design with a main span of 840 feet (256 meters) -- the longest span for a highway bridge anywhere on the Mississippi River until 1943, when an 845-foot bridge at Dubuque, Iowa, was completed.

The 1940 Bridge was designed by Ash Howard Needles and Tammen of Kansas City, Missouri, a firm that had a number of major projects in its portfolio at the time, including Mississippi River bridges in Vicksburg (1930), Natchez (1937), and Cape Girardeau, Missouri (1926).

In sixty-plus years, the Greenville Bridge has weathered the wrath of the Mississippi River and ever-increasing volumes of highway and river traffic. Since 1972, it has sustained more barge collisions than any other bridge on the Mississippi; in the 1950s, an airplane from the nearby Greenville Air Force Base crashed into the bridge. Though the 1940 Greenville Bridge remains structurally as sound as ever, the bridge is considered functionally obsolete by modern standards:

  • Total roadway width is 24 feet with no shoulders.
  • An overall sufficiency rating of 47.5 from the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) makes the bridge eligible for replacement funding.
  • The sharp vertical crest of the bridge reduces sight distance far below current criteria required by the Mississippi Department of Transportation.
  • The location of the bridge makes it highly prone to marine vessel collisions.

In 1994, the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) issued an engineering study report that explored a four-lane crossing for US 82 at Greenville. The study identified three construction alternatives that would accomplish the goal: two alternatives called for building new bridges and removing the old bridge; a third alternative explored keeping the old bridge and building a new bridge immediately next to it -- a strategy similar to that used in Natchez. It was concluded that a new bridge should be located approximately half a mile down river from the old bridge, and that the old bridge should be removed.

Further studies considered bridge types: should the new bridge be a steel through-truss similar to the existing structure, or would another type of bridge be more suitable? In 1995, the cable-stayed design was identified as the preferred bridge type. Other factors would influence the design of the new bridge: the width of the river, subsurface soil conditions, required river navigation clearances and river channel maintenance issues.

By the end of 1999, the studies were over and the engineers had drawn their plans. The result: the New Greenville Bridge.