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Major I-40 Bridge in Southeast Closed Indefinitely

The Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) has shut down the Hernando de Soto Bridge on 1-40 indefinitely. The bridge connects Arkansas with Memphis, Tennessee. While conducting a routine inspection on May 11, an ARDOT engineer noticed a fractured beam, and immediately reported it to authorities.

The bridge was immediately shut down. The Coast Guard closed the waterway beneath the bridge in case of collapse, but this restriction was lifted on the 14th.

Paul Deggs, lead engineer for the Tennessee Department of Transportation, stated that “It will be a number of weeks at least until we can have a [temporary] repair in place, probably six to eight weeks minimum.” While he wishes for a quicker solution, public safety remains paramount. While TDOT begins working on repairs, ARDOT continues to monitor the fracture.

The Hernando De Soto Bridge is essential for carrying traffic, including freight, from Memphis to Arkansas, and carries between 30,000 to 40,000 vehicles a day. Trucks make up roughly a quarter of those vehicles.

ARDOT Director Lorie Tudor took responsibility for the bridge damage during a press conference Monday. While, ARDOT confirmed that an inspector’s drone captured a crack in the areas where the fracture occurred in the bridge in 2019, the image of the crack only appears for less than one second of the five-hour video, and the inspection was focused on cables and rods above the bridge, not on any potential damage underneath.

Rather, ARDOT failed to notice and report the fracture in a later inspection in September of 2020.

While TDOT works on repairs, Tudor stated that the next step is to ensure this isn’t a systemic problem.

Drivers have been advised to take the I-55 bridge into Arkansas in the meantime.

Source: FreightWaves