First steps in I-40 bridge repair begin; no timeline set for completion

Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 8:13 PM CDT
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WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. (KAIT) - ArDOT officials say they have taken the first steps in repairing the Interstate 40 bridge over the Mississippi River.

The I-40 bridge was closed indefinitely after a fracture was discovered during a routine inspection.

Arkansas Department of Transportation Public Information Officer Dave Parker told Region 8 News repairing the bridge will come in three stages.

The first will be a temporary repair so the bridge is safe enough to allow equipment and crews.

A computer model of the bridge was created to allow officials to simulate repairs to see what impact that would have on the actual bridge.

“We took the real conditions of this bridge, the amount of damage, the amount of stress, all the dimensions and we created a computer image to simulate what it’s going through now,” said Parker.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation will be taking the lead on the actual repairs.

After phase one, allowing traffic onto the bridge will be considered, but no official decision has been made on when that will happen.

The third phase would be a permanent fix.

There is no timeline for when these repair stages will begin or end.

Parker said safety and making sure repairs are done correctly are the main focus.

While the I-40 bridge is closed, the I-55 bridge is carrying most of the traffic between Tennessee and Arkansas.

Parker told Region 8 News, the I-55 bridge typically carries 42,000 cars a day, with the I-40 bridge usually carrying 41,000 cars.

With few options to drive between Arkansas and Tennessee, the I-55 bridge has had steady lines of traffic moving daily.

Parker said while the I-55 bridge is smaller and older than the I-40 bridge, it’s perfectly capable of carrying all the extra traffic.

The I-55 bridge passed its inspection last August, as well as an inspection following the I-40 bridge closure.

“We did another inspection on the 55 bridge yesterday and everything looked fine,” Parker said. “But yeah, we know that bridge is going to get a lot more attention and we want people to feel safe as they cross it.”

Parker said both ArDOT and TDOT have given all the information they’ve gathered the last two days to the Coast Guard, which will decide when river traffic can reopen.

There is a new page on the ARDOT website specifically covering the I-40 bridge closure.

You can also find the latest updates on Twitter by following @myARDOT and using the hashtag #40MSRiverBridge.

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