MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Four sets of steel bollards are being installed on the city’s iconic Beale Street, as part of a safety improvement plan. The safety enhancements come months after Memphis City Council members adopted a security consultant’s report on how to keep the street safe.
The devices block vehicle traffic and can prevent a car ramming attack. New Orleans has similar ones in use on Bourbon Street.
“I’ve seen things similar in San Antonio or places like that where there’s big events, but they’ve been more temporary, not this permanent,” said Mike Shilts, who is visiting Memphis from Houston.
Shilts says he didn’t mind the new additions to Beale Street. The first set out of four bollards went up this week at Beale and Second. Another set is under construction. Two more sets will be put up along the popular street in the coming days.
“As a tourist they seem to do the job and be fine,” said Shilts.
The devices cost $585,012. The initial amount approved by the Memphis City Council was roughly $788,800. The Downtown Memphis Commission said the cost was reduced because of configuration changes. The DMC also indicated they still planned to add safety devices on Rufus Thomas and along Second.
The construction is an involved job. Workers must take out the non-reinforced pavement and put in a reinforced concrete slab. The center four bollards slide and go behind the others to allow for street cleaning and deliveries.
Once all are installed, the DMC said they’ll be up from 5 p.m. until 6:30 a.m. each Monday through Friday and 24 hours a day on Saturday and Sunday.
The bollards were included in a security consultant’s report on Beale Street Safety, launched after a number of high profile incidents on the street including stampedes.
Memphis City Council members last year officially adopted that report with two dozen safety recommendations and put the Downtown Memphis Commission and Memphis Police Department in charge of Beale Street safety decisions. The approval followed a longstanding controversy over the Beale Street Bucks cover charge program, which can still be used at the DMC and MPD’s discretion.
“A lot of security we needed down here for our workers,” said Relissha Collins.
Collins works at BB King’s and watched the bollards be installed. She said safety has to be a priority for a place people travel the country and the world to see.
“Because of the tourists and also our locals we need them to have a good time, this is Beale Street,” she said.
The construction crew told WMC Action News 5 weather permitting all four sets will be installed by the end of next week.
As for Beale Street Bucks, the admittance fee program, the Downtown Memphis Commission told WMC Action News 5 it has not been used recently because the criteria agreed upon with the council has not indicated it was needed. The criteria includes projected weather, planned events that could bring large crowds, and previously recorded information from the same weekend of the last year.