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I-40 bridge set to reopen next week, Arkansas judge says, but DOT officials won’t confirm

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 5:02 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - An official date for the reopening of the I-40 bridge will be announced Wednesday, according to a Crittenden County judge.

Judge Woody Wheeless posted on his Facebook page Tuesday afternoon the eastbound lanes will reopen Sunday night/Monday morning and the westbound lanes will follow a few days later.

Wheeless didn’t share where he got the information other than to say a news release would be shared Wednesday morning.

Nichole Lawrence with the Tennessee Department of Transportation confirmed there is a reopening plan for the bridge, and details about the plan will be released Wednesday. We’ve reached out to the Arkansas Department of Transportation, but they would confirm the judge’s post.

I-40 Bridge Reopening Schedule: East Bound lanes-Sunday night/Monday morning. West Bound lanes-A few days later. A...

Posted by Crittenden County Judge Woody Wheeless on Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Despite having 17 additional critical areas to be addressed on the I-40 bridge, all 17 areas have been addressed with little to no impact on the bridge’s rough reopening timeframe.

Seventeen brand-new, steel support plates are currently in place on the bridge, and it only took two weeks thanks in-part to Kiewit Construction having a nearby steel fabricator sub-company in AFCO Steel Inc. in Arkansas.

However, TDOT says “in place” doesn’t necessarily mean installed.

“We’ve got to finish bolting and torqueing, and taking down those lateral bracings, and uninstalling some of that bracing, as well, then cleanup and taking those work platforms that the crews have been able to get under there and make those repairs,” said Nichole Lawrence with TDOT.

Lawrence said Wednesday there will be load testing, and TDOT’s method is pretty simple, using a dump truck.

“As heavy as the dump truck can take, we’re going to fill that up,” said Lawrence. “And then they’re going to try and go as slow as they can. They’ll do some measurements, they’ll go another 8 to 10 feet, and they’ll do that several times. Then, they’ll add an additional dump truck. We’re doing it more than once with one dump truck, and then we’ll do it more than once with two dump trucks.”

Memphis infrastructure has remained under the national spotlight since the bridge’s closure.

Tuesday morning, the White House retweeted a post from Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland from early July, re-emphasizing the importance of a bipartisan infrastructure framework to be agreed upon on Capitol Hill and what it could mean for the Bluff City.

Though there is urgency to complete the bridge, TDOT’s message is safety, particularly for those who may be hesitant to drive on the bridge once it reopens.

“We are an infrastructure, transportation department, and we want to be able to give you the safest transportation system available,” said Lawrence.

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