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Officials speak on plans to repair I-40 bridge

Updated: May. 17, 2021 at 9:39 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Repair to the I-40 bridge will be performed in two phases and both phases must be complete before traffic can reopen.

There’s still no actual traffic on the nearly 50-year-old I-40 bridge, but there is some movement in plans to repair it.

Wednesday, Stupp Bridge Company in Bowling, Kentucky will deliver 11,000 pounds of steel to Memphis for a temporary fix by putting steel plates on both sides of the fractured support beam underneath the bridge.

A contractor out of Omaha, Nebraska has been selected to carry out the permanent fix of actually replacing the broken beam.

However, transportation officials say it’s still unclear when vehicular traffic will resume on the bridge.

During an interview with MSNBC, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said the worst case scenario is the bridge repair could take months to repair. The best case scenario is weeks.

It’s also clear that the closure will have a major economic impact.

“Well, it definitely has hurt us because many of the residents in West Memphis work in Memphis as well as we have a lot of businesses that depend on the population from surrounding areas,” said West Memphis Mayor Marco Mcclendon.

That includes the greatest economic driver for West Memphis, Southland Gaming and Casino.

Loss of tax revenue is a concern and so is paying for the bridge repair project. Currently, the state of Tennessee is responsible for financing the project, but Memphis Congressman Steve Cohen says he’s already lobbying for federal funds.

“We’ll get together and lobby, make calls, we’ll sign letters,” said Cohen.

Under President Biden’s Infrastructure Bill, 10 bridges would receive federal funds.

Cohen says if the bill passes, the I-40 bridge would be a great candidate, considering it is a critical artery for providing millions of goods across the country.

Tennessee Republican Senator Bill Hagerty has also reached out to the Biden administration and spoke to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigeg about taking immediate action to coordinate federal and state efforts to repair the bridge.

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