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West Memphis mayor talks plans to ease traffic congestion on I-55 bridge

Updated: Jun. 9, 2021 at 11:16 PM CDT
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WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. (WMC) - Efforts are underway to ease traffic congestion on I-55 while repairs continue on the I-40 bridge.

While that happens, one Mid-South mayor has a plan to help move things along.

Transportation officials say they spent weeks studying different ideas to help the congestion over the I-55 bridge. The hope is that shutting down several on and off ramps and closing certain lanes will improve the flow of traffic.

But the Mayor of West Memphis has a few other ideas that include using the new bridge before all repairs are complete.

“As far as helping the traffic going across the bridge, I don’t see it. I’m very optimistic it will bring some relief, but right now I don’t see it at all,” said West Memphis Mayor Marco McClendon.

McClendon is cautiously optimistic about plans to relieve the overwhelming congestion in his city.

Things aren’t much better on the Tennessee side.

McClendon says he, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, and other transportation officials have discussed using MATA buses to take travelers across the I-55 bridge in an effort to take some cars off the bridge.

McClendon also says it’s time to reopen the I-40 bridge, at least partially.

“Why isn’t the option being used to use one lane of traffic, especially even if it’s not for regular traffic, just for people commuting back and forth to work or for emergency purposes,” asked McClendon.

Phase one of the Hernando-Desoto bridge repair is complete, securing the fracture in the support beam so crews can begin permanent repairs.

McClendon says in the meantime, he wants one lane of traffic reopened only to personal vehicles. The larger 18-wheelers would have to continue using the I-55 bridge. He’s confident the I-40 Bridge can handle the lighter load.

“Would you be willing to make that one track across that one lane? Uhhhh, I might give it a minute. It’s a little scary. Me personally, no just because it’s not a huge necessity,” said Cesar Escobar who lives on Mud Island.

Escobar says he rarely travels into West Memphis except to do some shopping. He would just rather see the bridge fully repaired.

“It’s a little surprising, Escobar said. “You know, I figured since it was such a big bridge that it would be done a little bit quicker.”

McClendon has expressed his desires to officials with the Arkansas Department of Transportation, but the Tennessee Department of Transportation has made it very clear that the I-40 bridge will not reopen until all repairs are done.

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