I-40 bridge awaits first day of commuter traffic since May closure

Published: Aug. 1, 2021 at 9:20 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Sunday morning brought a welcome sight to Memphis, traffic flowing in the eastbound lanes of the I-40 bridge.

Those lanes will certainly be put to the test on Monday with the first day of commuter traffic since its closure back in May.

Drivers say it’s like the phrase “you never know what you had until it was gone.”

“This will be the first time I cross the I-40 bridge,” said Stephen Huddleston, a driver for Associated Couriers, on Sunday.

We spoke with Huddleston in West Memphis just before his first crossing of the I-40 bridge since it’s closure.

Huddleston works for Associated Couriers, delivering radioactive medicines for procedures like PET scans, having to cross the river twice a day, four days a week, and his deadlines a little more timely than most.

“It’s been challenging for us,” Huddleston said. “We’ve had to divert through Dyersburg when the bridge first shut down because traffic delays were almost like two hours. Our material is time sensitive. It’s radioactive decays, so any kind of delay impacts what the pharmacist can do with their medicine. It impacted our industry greatly.”

Local leaders like West Memphis Mayor Marco McClendon made one of the first crossings of the bridge last night, sending out a message to his citizens who took the brunt of the bridge’s closure.

Mayor McClendon is about to take the inaugural ride across the bridge I-40 to reopen the bridge West Memphis and Crittenden County, we made it!

Posted by Marco McClendon on Saturday, July 31, 2021

“...a lot of heartache on a lot of people, you know, people having to get up so early to go to work, trucks coming through our communities, making it difficult for us to be able to get to hospitals like we need to, but we’re getting ready to do it,” McClendon said. “We’re back open right here.”

“It’s going back to normal,” Huddleston said. “We are more than thrilled that it’s back open.”

With the westbound lanes still closed to drivers, there are still delays going to West Memphis, so we’re not out of the woods just yet.

TDOT’s latest update had the westbound lanes reopening this coming Friday, but they were already ahead of schedule on the eastbound lanes. It’d be interesting to see if the westbound lanes follow suit.

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