Transportation officials map out plan to repair I-40 bridge

Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 8:20 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tennessee and Arkansas transportation officials describe the past three days as intense as they work to repair and reopen the I-40 bridge.

While it’s clear much more work is left to be done, some activity has returned to the river.

“It’s nice to see a barge going up and down the river,” said Kendra Holt, who lives in Harbor town with her husband.

Holt says it’s a welcome return to the mighty Mississippi.

The U.S. Coast guard decided around 9 a.m. Friday to reopen the waterways around the I-40 bridge.

As of Friday morning, 62 vessels with a total of 1,058 barges in queue were finally given the go ahead after transportation officials decided there was no evidence that the bridge is continuing to deteriorate, making it safe for river traffic.

However, it’s still unclear when vehicles will be allowed to pass on the bridge.

“It’s kind of an eerie feeling and sound. You don’t hear anything at night. We used to hear thump, thump, thump, thump from the trucks, now it’s just quiet,” said Holt.

About 41,000 vehicles used to travel across the Hernando Desoto bridge daily.

ARDOT and TDOT officials shut down the bridge after finding a significant fracture in one of the support beams.

No timeline has been given for when the bridge will reopen.

However, the design team is working on an interim plan to repair which may include using steel rods to span over the fractured section.

The interim repair would allow more time for a permanent fix of a new bridge component. Officials say they also want to know more about how the fracture got there in the first place.

TDOT will be working with the University of Memphis researchers that may glean some information.

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