September 24, 2003 - Posted at: 2:43 p.m. CDT
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- When the big earthquake hits Memphis, the safest place in town just might be the Hernando DeSoto Bridge.
The big span that carries Interstate 40 across the Mississippi River to Arkansas is undergoing $170 million worth of work, implementing the latest designs for riding out a quake.
Among the improvements are new bearings that allow the bridge to move up to 22 inches in any direction shock waves send it.
The bridge was built thirty years ago and scientists know a lot more about the New Madrid Fault Zone now. The line runs from New Madrid in the Missouri Bootheel to Marked Tree, Arkansas.
Work now underway includes thickening the piers in the river, and adding 2,400 cubic yards of steel-reinforced concrete.
Officials say the next contract will be to clad the tall bridge piers in The Pyramid parking lot with steel.