Breaking News
More () »

How the iconic "M" bridge design almost never happened

The I-40 bridge over the Mississippi River is a staple in the Memphis skyline

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In a town best known for BBQ and blues, the Hernando-Desoto bridge is just as famous.

The I-40 bridge still has light shows going on at night, but with it being closed indefinitely, that's all it has to offer. It's hard to believe when you consider how important it is to commerce, even the city's identity. 

Dr. Kelli Dumas is the daughter of the Arkansas civil engineer, Bill Mulhollen, who was behind the famous design that got it the nickname, the "M" bridge.

"It just happens to be in a form of an 'M,'" Dumas said. "It doesn’t have anything to do with Memphis." 

She said her dad never imagined his vision would be so iconic, even though it almost never happened. 

"He had drawn up the design for the bridge and he had gone to his bosses and they said 'that’s a great design, but we want you to build a platform bridge,' which at that time was new," Dumas said.

Mulhollen knew the suspension design was going to be the most durable for decades to come. The Arkansas Highway Department eventually agreed to the design. 

"He said I told your mama you better get some boxes, honey because I’m going to get fired," Dumas said. 

The bridge has tens of thousands of drivers each day and a beautiful light show, but it will always be a reminder of home. 

"Even if it’s an abstract [picture] and has different pieces of Memphis, the bridge is always included in it," Dumas said.


Before You Leave, Check This Out