TDOT: Repairs on I-40 bridge could stretch into July or later

Updated: Jun. 3, 2021 at 4:49 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg visited Memphis Thursday following the closure of the I-40 Hernando DeSoto Bridge due to a steel beam fracture.

For the first time, Arkansas and Tennessee Department of Transportation officials gave a timeline for repairs they say could stretch into July or even longer.

Buttigieg says this crisis is part of a nationwide problem.

Standing in front of the closed I-40 bridge with local politicians and state transportation officials by his side, Buttigieg said the federal government is lending its full support to opening this transportation lifeline.

“It is important that we restore this connection quickly because like so much about the Memphis region, it is an area of national logistical importance,” said Buttigieg.

He said he has heard the local calls for a third bridge over the Mississippi River but was non-committal on providing federal funds in support of that project.

“There are two bridges and they are the only ones for a long way,” Buttigieg said. “And when one goes out, everything depends on that remaining bridge, which is why I know there is interest in adding to that. Again it’s not my place to tell the communities or the states what the right solution is for them. But what I will say is I do think there is a federal role in making sure that there are more resources available.”

According to the Tennessee Department of Transportation, the necessary steel beam components will be delivered in late June and work replacing the fractured section will stretch into July and possibly August.

Transportation officials say their non-stop work and federal attention should give local residents confidence that once the work is complete the bridge will be safe to travel.

“As far as having a comfort level of having to go across that bridge once we open it up,” said Clay Bright, Tennessee commissioner of transportation. “In taking this investigation and inspection in what we’re doing out there and taking it to another level, and looking at all the wells and what not. We’re hoping that conveys to the public how serious it is. That their perception of that bridge once they get back on it, it’s going to be safe for them.”

Buttigieg said he’s thankful this fracture didn’t end in any loss of life and that this shows these is a nationwide need for infrastructure improvements.

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