A major bridge, which carries more than 40,000 vehicles daily over the Mississippi River on Interstate 40, has been shut down following the discovery of a crack in one of the bridge’s support beams. It could be months before it’s fixed.
Of the vehicle traffic that normally uses the 48-year-old bridge, nearly a third of it are trucks, said Paul Degges, chief engineer for the Tennessee Department of Transportation, during a press conference. Now, those trucks and vehicles are being rerouted between 60 and 90 minutes away to I-55, the only other river-crossing option in the Memphis area.
Shannon Newton, president of the Arkansas Trucking Association, told Arkansas Democrat Gazette that the closure will have a “significant ripple effect on the already strained supply chain.”
When this TV station talked to one truck driver, he said he had been waiting in traffic for three hours. Have you been affected by the I-40 bridge closure? If so, how are you dealing with it? https://t.co/VLWnfUmcp9— Heavy Duty Trucking (@HDTrucking) May 12, 2021
TDOT contract crews have entirely shut down the bridge as they further inspect the fracture that developed in the bottom side of a bridge truss, one of the 900-foot steel beams supporting two of the bridge spans. The beam is critical, one of two which runs the length of the bridge. The inspection alone could take weeks, TDOT officials said in a Facebook post.
Crews will begin emergency repairs on the six-lane Hernando DeSoto Bridge, but that could take months rather than weeks, Degges said.
The state’s highway engineers called on national experts in bridge repair to speed up reopening the bridge, the Gazette reported.
A routine annual inspection by the Arkansas DOT, which shares responsibility for the bridge, uncovered the crack and immediately shut it down. The I-40 bridge wasn't deemed structurally deficient before May 11.