COPY-I-40 Mississippi River bridge closed after pier settles

WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. (AP) - The Mississippi River bridge between Arkansas and Memphis, Tenn., was closed Monday after a bridge pier in a construction zone settled overnight. Engineers were inspecting the span.

"We want to be proactive and take all the traffic off the bridge so that our inspectors can take a very thorough look at the structure before making any further decisions," said Paul Degges, the chief engineer of the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

Motorists were diverted to Interstate 55, which parallels I-40.

Under a Tennessee highway project that extends into Arkansas, workers are improving the I-40 bridge to make it safer in case of earthquakes. The New Madrid fault runs through the area.

That is the area where they are doing the seismic retrofitting on the West Memphis side," said Glenn Bolick, a spokesman for the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department.

Arkansas State Police spokesman Bill Sadler said his office received an advisory from state highway officials about the closure but referred further questions to highway officials.       The span carries 35,600 vehicles a day.

The second bridge at Memphis, I-55, carries 44,700 vehicles per day.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)