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Phase 1 of I-40 bridge repairs hoped to be completed next week, as AR and TN governors visit Memphis

Crews and materials expected to arrive in Memphis on Wednesday
Updated: May. 18, 2021 at 5:55 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Phase one of the repair to the I-40 Bridge could be completed by next week, according to TDOT Commissioner Clay Bright.

Phase 1 involves placing 35-foot-long steel plates, which will come from Stupp Bridge Company out of Bowling Green, Kentucky, on both sides of the fractured support beam on the I-40 bridge.

Phase 2, however, could takes months to complete, but with the selection of the company Kiewit Construction out of Omaha Nebraska, a definitive timeline and price tag of the repairs could be announced in the near future.

“They’re (Kiewit crews) mobilizing right now,” Bright said They will start showing up tomorrow and Thursday. Their first step is to put work platforms up underneath the bridge so that they can work off those platforms.”

Though there is no timeline, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and Tennessee Governor Bill Lee said in Tuesday’s press conference in Memphis that they’re not rushing the bridge’s reopening process.

“Our number one priority here is the safety of the people that travel across that bridge,” Lee said.

“We’re going to have to adjust some of our flow patterns, but we’re going to work together to get this open as soon as possible,” Hutchinson added.

Hutchinson went on to comment on the fired ArDOT employee who missed the crack in the I-40 support beam in both a 2019 and 2020 inspection and said ArDOT Director Lorie Tudor took appropriate actions in the personnel matter.

“Every bridge that this particular inspector looked at, certified was in good shape, it’s going to be reviewed again,” Hutchinson said. “That’s the double check that we need.”

Both governors said that, for the time being, messaging and education is what’s going to be key to controlling traffic across the Mississippi.

Hutchinson said you can expect to see signage as far out as Little Rock, informing all forms of drivers of the situation with the I-40 bridge.

“As you enter I-40 back in Nashville,” Lee followed, “you’re directed to consider alternative routes when you’re coming to Memphis. We’re working with business groups across our state so that they can understand the timeframe, when we know the timeframe.”

At the same time on Tuesday, TDOT sent two drone teams to inspect the I-55 bridge.

This was a request made by ArDOT to restore confidence in drivers that the older bridge can handle the added amount of traffic.

“...looking at all these very closely, just to make sure that we don’t see any issues out there,” Bright said. “We’re just doing this as far as an over an abundance of caution and a lot of questions we’re getting about I-40.”

Results from TDOT’s inspection are still pending, but Bright assured the media at Tuesday’s press conference that I-55 is safe.

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