Tennessee, Arkansas DOTs select repair strategy for I-40 Memphis bridge

Tennessee, Arkansas DOTs select repair strategy for I-40 Memphis bridge
The Tennessee Department of Transportation announced May 27 that, in agreement with the Arkansas Department of Transportation, a repair strategy has been selected for the damaged I-40 bridge that spans the Mississippi River at Memphis, Tennessee; however, the agencies do not have an estimated time frame for the bridge’s reopening. (Adrian Sainz/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Tennessee and Arkansas departments of transportation have selected a repair strategy for the Interstate 40 Hernando DeSoto bridge that links the two states, according to a statement from TDOT.

Working with Kiewit Infrastructure Group, TDOT developed two repair concepts this week. One concept requires removing the entire fractured steel box member (tie girder) and replacing it with new components. The second adds additional steel plating adjacent to the damaged area, bypassing the fractured components, removing a smaller section of the fractured piece, and leaving the bulk of the box section in place.

According to TDOT, the availability of steel materials and fabrication times for the components required have a bearing on the bridge’s opening date. With that in mind, both state DOTs agreed to proceed with the second strategy, using the plating concept. This design will require less fabrication time and offers the advantage of getting the bridge open to traffic two to three weeks sooner than replacing the damaged steel box assembly in its entirety.

The final design drawings are in the works, and the contractor is sourcing the steel components for the repairs. TDOT says it plans to have a schedule for the bridge opening next week.

ARDOT May 2021 Photo
This May 2021 photo shows the fractured beam on the I-40 bridge. The ARDOT inspector who reviewed 2019 drone footage showing a crack but failed to report it was fired after the fracture was found May 11, 2021. (Courtesy: ARDOT)

The bridge was shut down Tuesday, May 11, after the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) found what was then described as a “crack” during a routine inspection. Subsequent inspections revealed the damage to be a significant fracture to the one of two 900-foot horizontal steel beams that are crucial for the bridge’s integrity, said Lorie Tudor, director of ARDOT.

While ARDOT is responsible for routine and special inspections of the structure, TDOT is responsible for physical maintenance and repairs.

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. TDOT said that currently an average of 67,000 vehicles are crossing the I-55 daily; this data is generated from a radar station located just off the east side of the bridge.

Travelers can check for live traffic information through TDOT’s SmartWay cameras posted at the east and west approaches of I-55 to the bridge; click here for the west approach, and here for the east approach.

Because of the dramatic increase in traffic crossing the I-55 Mississippi River Bridge, a special inspection was conducted to make sure the structure can withstand the added use. In its May 27 statement, TDOT noted that inspectors continue to review hours of drone video and numerous pictures of the I-55 bridge, noting, “So far, there is nothing of concern. We will release the final report when available.”

Check regularly for updates on the I-40 bridge repairs. In addition, TDOT has created a webpage to keep the public updated of the progress work on the bridge, and ARDOT has a similar webpage.

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The big question is how many other bridges did that turkey certify that could collapse and kill people. He needs to be in custody until they can inspect all the bridges he has inspected, just in case they start callapsing.