Memphis River Parks Partnership gets approval to make Riverside Drive more pedestrian-friendly

Updated: Apr. 6, 2021 at 7:16 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Memphis River Parks Partnership presented big changes to Riverside Drive by Tom Lee Park Downtown on Monday that they hope allows the park to be safer and more friendly to pedestrians.

The Memphis River Parks Partnership is concerned about the speed at which people drive down Riverside Drive along Tom Lee Park.

MRPP officials say drivers will race on Riverside at unsafe speeds and the 35 mile per hour speed limit is often not followed. Tire burnout marks, a sign of some of the dangerous driving.

“As you can probably see behind me, traffic on Riverside moves pretty quickly, the average speed is nearly 50 miles per hour,” said MRPP Director of External Affairs George Abbott.

Monday, the MRPP presented plans to drastically alter Riverside as part of the $60 million renovation to Tom Lee Park.

Those changes were approved by City of Memphis city planners and Mayor Jim Strickland.

Changes include adding speed bumps before three pedestrian crossings and turning the crossings themselves into speed tables.

Abbott says the goal is to keep traffic under 20 miles per hour.

“We want to find solutions that make it safe and easy for pedestrians to travel between downtown and the Riverfront,” he said.

“It’s an opportunity to allow pedestrians to safely get to the river,” said Paul Young, president of the Downtown Memphis Commission.

Young likes the changes. He thinks slower traffic and a more pedestrian-friendly Riverside Drive will have a positive economic impact.

“This is going to result in more people walking around,” said Young. “Pedestrian activity is important to vibrant downtown areas.”

Another change includes replacing the existing parking lot with 60 on-street parking spaces on the West side of Riverside.

“The complete vision for Tom Lee Park is really to make the best riverfront park in America,” said Abbott. “That’s what we’re working on, a riverside that feels much less like an expressway and much more like a road through a park.”

Construction on Tom Lee Park renovations have already begun and are scheduled to be finished by early 2023.

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