MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Memphis leaders asked for more money to improve Elvis Presley Boulevard, but the federal government decided it should go to other projects in the city. The project is not completely scrapped.
Memphis will get a total of $30 million from the federal government. The money is part of the "Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery" or TIGER grants. A total of $11 million will be used to build a bicycle and pedestrian path on the Harahan Rail Bridge. The rest of the money will go to other projects in downtown Memphis, such as sidewalks and the drainage system. No TIGER money is going toward the Elvis Presley Boulevard project.
"I'm happy that at least Memphis got awarded something and that's ok. I would've been on cartwheels had they selected for Elvis Presley Boulevard," said Memphis City Councilman Harold Collins.
Collins said that TIGER grant would've helped widen the street and improve the sewer systems.
"We have enough money to do what we consider to be the basic renovations," he said. The project has about $43 million to use to improve the street, sidewalk, and landscaping.
Congressman Steve Cohen says that project is a top priority but it was hard to sell to other U.S. senators.
"Any time they see it's with a museum or a tourist attraction, there are certain senators that go ballistic and so because of that we didn't get it but it's not like we didn't request it. It was our number one choice,” Congressman Cohen told abc24.com.
Cohen says the bridge needed the TIGER grant money too.
"It's not a bridge to nowhere,” he said. “It will attract tourists and it'll make the city more attractive and vibrant to people who are more vibrant, younger people and that's the problem Memphis has had."
Cohen says fixing construction will still happen on Elvis Presley Boulevard.
"We got Elvis Presley advanced by 2 years, we already have the federal monies for the roads, infrastructure, landscaping, and all the utility improvements,” said Cohen. “The only federal monies that Elvis Presley Boulevard did not get that they wanted in the TIGER grant were buses, $10 million worth of buses. Well that's something we can get later."
Collins plans to get more money from the Shelby County Commission next year to help keep the area a tourist destination. So far this week a new Subway opened and there are plans for a major chain hotel to open near Graceland in November. That’s the same time construction is scheduled to begin on Elvis Presley Boulevard.