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Do you enjoy crumbling infrastructure? Hearing about backlogs of roads and bridges that need proper maintenance to avoid catastrophe? Well, the bridge of Interstate 40 that allows truckers and 4-wheelers alike to cross the Mississippi River into Memphis is now out due to structural integrity issues.
The news first broke on Tuesday, May 11th at around 2 PM local time. An inspector from the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) called 911 saying that he and his team had found a full crack in a steel beam supporting a bridge.
Audio obtained by WREG Memphis
The bridge connects Memphis, Tennessee to Arkansas, and carries an average of 50,000 vehicles per day, with about 25% of them being trucks. Usually the government has efficiency issues regarding jurisdiction on things crossing any border, but ARDOT and the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) have a deal: ARDOT does inspections, TDOT does maintenance and repairs if ARDOT finds anything out of the ordinary.
While TDOT did not give a specific period for how long it took to evacuate and close the bridge, they said they did it as quickly as possible. It is currently unknown how much time passed between the beam becoming fully cracked and authorities closing the bridge, but ARDOT insists the crack was not there during the last inspection in September 2020. Assuming it was only a week, an estimated 350,000 cars were at risk.
Beyond automobiles not being allowed to travel on the bridge, boats are prohibited from traveling under it.
Alternatives and Repair
Drivers who need to travel across the Mississippi River into Memphis or the greater state of Tennessee will need to take a detour. The closest bridges are about 60 miles to the south near Lula. Mississippi, and 100 miles to the north near Dyersburg, Tennessee. Which one to take ultimately depends on your final destination.
TDOT estimates that it could take months to go through the process of making the bridge accessible again, which includes replacing the steel beam and testing the bridge for strength.
The event comes at a pivotal moment on the national stage, as Democrats and Republicans quarrel over how much spending should happen on “hard infrastructure” such as bridges and roads, versus “soft infrastructure” such as broadband internet and wind energy.
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