MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Work is “well underway” on Phase 1 of repairs to the Interstate 40 Hernando DeSoto bridge spanning the Mississippi River between West Memphis, Arkansas, and Memphis, Tennessee, according to a May 24 update from the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT).
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.
Phase 1 of the repairs, conducted by Kiewit Infrastructure Group, involves installing steel plates on either side of the fractured beam. This will provide the strength and support required for the installation of the equipment that will be used during Phase 2 of the repairs — removing and replacing the damaged beam.
According to TDOT, Kiewit work crews will be working 24/7 to complete Phase 1 of repairs on the bridge, which is a vital link for east-west freight transport.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) described the bridge as “critical” in a May 18 press conference.
“Whenever you see a break in the commerce, whenever you see a defect in a bridge, then you realize how dependent you are on that flow of commerce,” he said.
TDOT has not provided an estimated date for the reopening of the bridge, but travelers should expect a long-term closure.
“Certainly, it’s plausible that (the closure) could be months rather than weeks,” said Paul Degges, chief engineer for TDOT during a May 12 press conference.
Over the weekend, Kiewit completed staging the work area and began the task of positioning and securing steel plates. According to a May 24 update from TDOT, “the drilling and bolting of 315 holes for the outside steel plate were completed last night.” The next step is to install brackets and begin drilling holes on the back plate.
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.
To help alleviate congestion along I-55 because of the additional traffic, TDOT completed a restriping project and closed ramps around the I-55/Crump Interchange. Click here for a list of ramp closures and detours. 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.
In addition, special inspections of the 71-year-old I-55 span were conducted last week, and inspectors are reviewing the drone footage. According to TDOT, “so far, there is nothing of concern.” The results of the latest inspections are expected to be available later this week.
Check TheTrucker.com regularly for updates on the I-40 bridge repairs.
Linda Garner-Bunch has been in publishing for more than 30 years. You name it, Linda has written about it. She has served as an editor for a group of national do-it-yourself publications and has coordinated the real estate section of Arkansas’ only statewide newspaper, in addition to working on a variety of niche publications ranging from bridal magazines to high-school sports previews and everything in between. She is also an experienced photographer and copy editor who enjoys telling the stories of the “Knights of the Highway,” as she calls our nation’s truck drivers.