I-40 bridge reopens after months of closure

Published: Jul. 31, 2021 at 9:53 PM CDT
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EMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Traffic started flowing freely on the eastbound lanes of I-40 Saturday night.

The chamber of commerce says this ordeal hopefully brings about major changes and federal funding.

After being closed since May 11, due to a major fracture discovered in a steel beam, Arkansas and Tennessee Department of Transportation crews just barely met the deadline of their promise to open the I-40 bridge before the end of July.

“It’s really exciting that we’re able to keep that word and be able to open up those lanes tonight,” DOT Community Relations Officer Nichole Lawrence said.

Officials say transportation crews worked every day to repair not only the fractured steel beam with bolted steel plates, but also strengthened the bridge by repairing an additional 16 steel plates followed by state of the art inspections.

“Going in with ultrasonic testing and looking at the work you’ve done and making sure everything looks is up to par,” ARDOT Public Information Officer Dave Parker said.

“So many business and everyday citizens frankly, rely on the bridge,” President and CEO Greater Memphis Chamber Beverley Robertson said.

The I-40 Hernando DeSoto Bridge normally has 100,000 travelers per day and is a part of the third busiest trucking corridor in the country.

The closure brought national attention with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg visiting Memphis in June.

Greater Memphis Chamber President and CEO Beverley Robertson hopes that attention can turn into federal dollars for the construction of a 3rd bridge over the Mississippi River.

“Memphis moves the world and I think this bridge closure has demonstrated that and hopefully has set us up for significant infrastructure dollars,” Robertson said.

Transportation officials say the bridge is the strongest it’s ever been since it opened and assure anyone with concerns that it’s safe to drive over.

“It’s human nature when something like this happens for anyone and everyone to be a little skittish. But you know that’s why we’ve kept the bridge closed, we’ve inspected it up and down, inside and out,” Lawrence said

“It’s been inspected and re-inspected and so the level of confidence should be extremely high,” Parker said.

The Westbound lanes are scheduled to reopen on Friday but that may also be moved up if weather allows.

Transportation officials are asking people to drive slowly and carefully because it is still a construction zone.

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