On making my first trip to Natchez several years ago, I was curious as to why there was a circular “park” just before one crossed the Mississippi bridge to Vidalia. It is next to the tourist information building, and I never gave it much additional thought. Recently while in my favorite cyber-research portal–the Mississippi Department of Archives & History/Historic Resources Inventory database, I learned it was the former toll plaza for the Natchez-Vidalia Bridge, completed in 1940 as PWA Mississippi project #1126. The Mississippi River bridge operated initially as a toll bridge. Although the booths have been removed, the toll plaza, surrounded by its semi-circle of wooden columns, remains, along with the historic plaque identifying the project.
The original cantilevered Warren through truss bridge opened to traffic September 26, 1940. Currently, it carries traffic from Natchez to Vidalia. A second bridge, completed in 1988, accommodates vehicles from Vidalia to Natchez. The engineers, Ash-Howard-Needles & Tammer also designed the Ben G. Humphreys Memorial Bridge that linked Greenville, Mississippi with Lake Village, Arkansas (dismantled following the construction of the current bridge at that crossing).
Construction of the bridge took from 1938-1940. In 1939, the entire town of Vidalia was relocated by WPA workers, who moved it six blocks inland in a federal flood control project (crt.state.la.us). Because Natchez sat high above the river on the bluff, Vidalia was sacrificed in the Corps of Engineers project to manage flooding. WPA workers laid out the new streets, sidewalks, and jacked up and moved over 100 homes and commercial buildings. Others were demolished and new buildings constructed, including the Concordia Parish courthouse. While private contractors built the courthouse, the WPA workers laid out the site along with the rest of Vidalia.
The bridge was lighted in a $3 million project completed in 2010 in a joint venture between the City of Vidalia–who supplies the power–the Louisiana Department of Transportation, and the Mississippi Department of Transportation.