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Repair work begins on Hernando DeSoto Bridge

Updated: May. 20, 2021 at 10:28 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Workers began installing a temporary platform on the I-40 bridge over the Mississippi River in preparation for the repairs to a crack that shut it down.

The Arkansas bridge inspector who was fired after the discovery of the fractured beam was the lead inspector of nine bridges across the state.

Kiewit Infrastructure Group, who will be making repairs to the I-40 bridge, got started Thursday with preparations. You can see workers out on the bridge doing the dangerous job. They hope to have the platform completed by Friday. Then, the planning for exactly how it will be repaired will begin.

While that is happening the nine bridges inspected by the fired inspector will be re-inspected. That includes the heavily travelled Highway 49 bridge that leads to Helena -West Helena. A spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) says the Highway 49 bridge and the eight others are considered “fracture critical bridges,” which means an element of the structure, if it failed, would cause a partial or total bridge collapse.

The Helena-West Helena police chief said traffic on the Highway 49 bridge has not really increased since the I-40 bridge was shut down May 11 when the crack was discovered. Interstate traffic in the Memphis area is being diverted to the I-55 bridge. Traffic has definitely increased on that bridge.

Tennessee Department of Transpiration )TDOT) traffic engineers are working on options to improve traffic flow at the I-55 and Crump interchange. TDOT help trucks are stationed on either side of the bridge to quickly respond to incidents and keep lanes open. TDOT and ARDOT are briefing federal officials on the progress of all of this.

As far as when the I-40 bridge will reopen, transportation officials say it could be a month or two, but they really don’t know at this point. That information could come when the work actually begins.

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