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Temporary platform under construction to begin repair of I-40 bridge

Updated: May. 21, 2021 at 5:59 PM CDT
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WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. (WMC) - It’s been more than a week since the I-40 bridge closed.

The good news is work is already underway.

With repairs happening in two phases, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) has made it clear that both phases will need to be completed before the bridge reopens.

Phase one involves installing steel plates on each side of the fracture to hold the heavy equipment necessary for the permanent repairs. Phase two consists of removing and replacing the damaged piece.

Friday, Kiewit Infrastructure Group began installing a temporary platform to begin work on phase one. TDOT hopes to have this assembled by the weekend.

Stupp Bridge Company out of Bowling Green, Kentucky is providing the steel plates for phase one of repairs.

TDOT crews will pick up over 33,000 pounds of steel and deliver it to the worksite this weekend.

With traffic still backed up for miles on I-55, West Memphis Mayor Marco McClendon says he’s asked the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) to install more road signs to help ease traffic.

“A lot of signs along the roads, you know, definitely to address some of the congestion we are having,” McClendon said.

TDOT says inspection on the I-55 bridge was still happening Friday. They plan to complete the field inspection by the weekend. So far, nothing concerning has been reported.

There is still no word on when the I-40 bridge will reopen, but we know it will take months.

Traffic is not the only thing coming to a standstill with the closure of the I-40 bridge. Business is also drying up on the Arkansas side of the Mighty Mississippi.

“As you can see, my bays are empty. I do have a truck in the wash bay at the moment, but normally we have a line and we have at least two or three of these bays busy,” said Constance Pritchett, owner of Crossroads Truck Wash.

Pritchett says ever since the I-40 bridge closed, business has been slow.

“Probably cutting our business somewhere between one to three thousand a day,” Pritchett said.

WMC also checked in with Pancho’s Mexican Restaurant. They say they’re about $200 down during lunch alone.

Pritchett believes traffic is making it difficult for drivers to get to businesses, something echoed by McClendon.

“There’s no way anyone can get used to this traffic. It’s crowding our city, it’s making it hard economically, it’s making it hard for the peace and quiet here in this city,” McClendon said.

Southland Casino did not want to comment on the impact, but encourages patrons in Memphis and the Mid-South to use one of the alternative routes and says there is less traffic on weekends.

Pritchett says the uncertainty of when the bridge will reopen is worrisome.

“With it being indefinite, we don’t know if we’re going to make it or not,” she said. “Should I shut down now and keep my resources? What should you do? You just don’t know.”

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