An Installment on Bridge Lighting – Mississippi’s Best Community Newspaper

In 2016, one of the most beautiful views in America went extinct. I’m of course talking about the view from the highest bluff overlooking the Mississippi River right here in Natchez, when the lights were removed from the Natchez-Vidalia bridges during the North Bridge renovation.

To relight the bridges, we need 6 million dollars. I am happy to report that this week our first installment, $500,000, was appropriated by the Mississippi Legislature. Thanks to our state delegation and leaders like Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann, President Philip Gunn and Governor Tate Reeves, we are now well on our way to making this goal a reality. We are also grateful for the leadership of both houses of the Mississippi Legislative Assembly and the continued assistance of our dear friend, Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser.

Of course, we still have a lot to raise. Together with Lieutenant Governor Nungesser and Vidalia Mayor Buz Craft, we continue our efforts to seek funding from the State of Louisiana. We are also seeking a federal government earmark, and we have reason to believe that more funding from the State of Mississippi will be provided in the future.

Lighting the Natchez and Vidalia bridges is about more than just restoring a beautiful aesthetic display. This project is a major economic driver for our region. Deck lighting will illuminate what has become a favorite stopover for all cruises along the Mississippi River. The bridges in Memphis, Baton Rouge and New Orleans are all beautifully lit. It is important that the Natchez-Vidalia bridges are not left in the dark.

American Queen Steamboat Company and American Cruise Lines already bring thousands of visitors to our area, and more boats are on the way. Viking will introduce its new Viking Mississippi to the river in June, and ACL will add another boat in early 2023. This will increase our numbers to over 3000 tourists and crew per week! This means more economic development, even an opportunity to have cruises that start and end in Natchez once we restore commercial air service. Imagine the JOBS this will create for Miss-Lou!

In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, many travelers are looking to smaller communities like Natchez and Vidalia as a destination. Having our decks lit at night will add significantly to our collection of things to do and see and help us stay competitive in a growing tourist market. LED color and movement are included in the design, coordinated with speakers on the shores of Natchez and Vidalia, creating a “Bellagio Light Show” experience each evening after sunset. Imagine the impact of this additional attraction!

There is also an element of security involved in this effort. The Natchez-Vidalia bridges are located at one of the steepest bends in the river where, especially at high water, the currents are very strong. With the huge increase in barge and river boat traffic that we are experiencing, bridge lighting can be seen as a very significant safety issue, especially with new docks and ramps planned for the Natchez and Vidalia shores.

Our majestic bridges have long remained in darkness. It’s time to turn the lights back on. Many thanks to all who help. The future is bright. Natchez deserves better!

Dan Gibson is mayor of Natchez.

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Elaine R. Knight