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West Memphis facing traffic problems during bridge shutdown

Office of Emergency Management gives tips; EMS organizations make preparations
Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 10:58 PM CDT
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WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. (KAIT) - The bridge shutdown has impacted surrounding cities like West Memphis.

The local Office of Emergency Management has safety tips for travelers, and EMS organizations have plans in place to make sure services are not delayed.

DeWayne Rose, emergency management director for West Memphis, suggests planning accordingly. Before you cross the bridge, make sure you have plenty of fuel in your car and prepare for longer travel times.

Rose says the biggest issue right now is an inconvenience. Roughly over 41,000 vehicles pass through I-40, and all of that has been moved to the I-55 area.

“What you’re going to have to do, you’re going to have to add 30 to 45 minutes to your travel time. If you have a doctor’s appointment at 11 o’clock, where it would normally take you 20 minutes to get there, it might take you an hour and 20 minutes now,” said Rose. “You’re really going to have to be patient and navigate through the traffic.”

Rose also suggests if you don’t have to travel to Memphis, don’t for the time being.

There are also concerns about emergency and ambulance travel.

“The issue we’re seeing is the ability to get ambulances across the bridge and back over the bridge to get back in service. Our transport times are longer,” said Hudson Hallum, Crittenden EMS service director.

Hallum says they’re using the same emergency plan they have in place for severe weather.

They have agreements with their air transport partners to move patients in critical condition and avoid long waiting times.

If the weather doesn’t allow for air travel, they are making use of local hospitals like NEA Baptist and St. Bernards in Jonesboro.

“It won’t be our first time we’ve implemented this plan, and you can rest assured that anyone who calls for an emergency will get an ambulance to them, and we will be able to transport them to a facility that can get them the care that they need,” said Hallum.

Hallum added they are preparing for the worst but hopes the bridge opens back up soon.

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