LITTLE ROCK, Ark., AND MEMPHIS, Tenn. — While the Interstate 40 Hernando de Soto bridge remains closed to traffic, work by the Arkansas and Tennessee Departments of Transportation (ARDOT, TDOT) to improve traffic flow along the detour route on I-55 has helped alleviate at least some of the closure’s impact on the trucking industry, according to the Arkansas Trucking Association.
The I-40 bridge was abruptly closed to traffic May 11 after a significant fracture was discovered in one of two 900-foot horizontal steel beams that are critical to the structure’s integrity. While the I-40 bridge is closed, all interstate traffic in the Memphis area is being rerouted to I-55, which crosses the Mississippi River a few miles south of I-40.
ARDOT and TDOT share financial responsibility for the structure. While ARDOT is responsible for routine and special inspections of the structure, TDOT is responsible for physical maintenance and repairs. TDOT has enlisted Kiewit Infrastructure Groups to handle the repair of the bridge.
In addition, TDOT has taken steps to facilitate traffic flow across the I-55 river bridge while coordinating repair efforts to the I-40 bridge.
Since the bridge’s closure, the trucking industry has absorbed more than $70 million in unanticipated costs, the Arkansas Trucking Association said June 24. However, the latest data on traffic congestion along the detour route suggests that the average cost to the trucking industry has reduced from an estimated $2.4 million to $936,000 a day.
“We commend the Arkansas and Tennessee Departments of Transportation for acting in response to the concerns of the trucking industry and implementing measures to improve traffic flow on this major east-west shipping corridor,” said Shannon Newton, the association’s president.
“When the bridge first closed, delays were regularly exceeding an hour. Now, thanks to ARDOT’s traffic engineering, implementing strategic lane shifts, that delay is down to only 15 minutes,” she said. Operational cost data provided by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) shows that the average cost of operating a truck is $71.78 an hour, or $1.20 a minute.
On June 9, ARDOT enacted a series of lane changes in West Memphis, Arkansas, in an effort to reduce merging points to reduce conflicts and improve traffic flow.
“In just the two weeks since ARDOT reconfigured traffic in West Memphis, we have saved roughly $21.9 million in expenses as the estimated cost per day decreased from $2.4 million to $936,000,” Newton continued. “Trucking is still losing nearly a million dollars a day, but these improvements are proving significant to an industry that is already struggling to meet demand.”
Truck traffic over the Mississippi River has decreased only slightly from 26,500 trucks per day down to 23,500 trucks, the Arkansas Trucking Association noted.
“Using the latest ATRI data, we estimate those 3,000 trucks that are re-routing 60 miles or more from the I-55 bridge are losing $513,000 per day in lost time and increased mileage while the cost of the 15-minute delay for the 23,500 trucks using the I-55 bridge is an estimated $423,000,” Newton said. “We are confident the ARDOT and TDOT are working with the utmost expediency to re-open the bridge so that is it safe for all traffic.”
According to a June 25 statement from TDOT, “significant progress” is being made on the repairs, and an in-depth inspection of the structure continues.
As of June 25, TDOT said, the following steps have been implemented in the repair of the bridge:
- 108,000 pounds of structural steel plating has been added to the tie girder;
- More than 4,400 permanent bolts have been used to connect the steel plates;
- 1,202 feet of 472 welds have been inspected and tested;
- Eight 3-inch-diameter high-strength post-tensioning rods have been used; and
- More than 1.2 million pounds of tension has been removed from the fractured section of the bridge and transferred to a composite section.
The Trucker News Staff produces engaging content for not only TheTrucker.com, but also The Trucker Newspaper, which has been serving the trucking industry for more than 30 years. With a focus on drivers, the Trucker News Staff aims to provide relevant, objective content pertaining to the trucking segment of the transportation industry. The Trucker News Staff is based in Little Rock, Arkansas.