I-40 bridge reopening date confirmed as TDOT wraps up final assessments

I-40 bridge
I-40 bridge
Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 4:59 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - It was made public yesterday, but Wednesday morning it was confirmed by both the departments of transportation in Arkansas and Tennessee that the I-40 bridge will reopen on Monday.

The plan is to have the eastbound lanes opened on Monday morning and the westbound lanes on Friday.

At the time the announcement was made, load testing was being done on the I-40 bridge, using dump trucks loaded at full capacity to measure the capacity of the new steel support plates.

Should anything else be found, the reopening dates would be pushed back.

“I don’t anticipate that,” said Dave Parker, the Arkansas Department of Transportation’s (ARDOT) PIO. “You know, the bridge has been tested and re-inspected, and plated and just about everything we could possibly do.”

Parker says, as of now, the cost of the bridge’s repairs totals around $9.5 million.

“But we don’t have a final price tag yet,” Parker clarified. “We won’t until we’re completely wrapped up with everything. We’ll get with TDOT, and we’ll split the cost.”

Regardless of cost, folks like Mayor Marco McClendon in West Memphis are anxious to see the reopening date arrive. He and his team were told unofficially last night before the announcement was made.

“It was music to my ears,” McClendon said.

McClendon is excited to have West Memphis reclaim its status as a major trucking stop and not one that makes drivers detour around the city.

“The tri-state area is excited because we are opening up West Memphis and Memphis and the people are being able to go back and forth with traffic,” the West Memphis mayor said.

Also, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland released a statement about the bridge’s reopening schedule being announced.

While it’s felt longer than just under three months since the bridge first closed, Parker and others are thankful the closure didn’t end up being longer, as some of the earlier calculations predicted.

“The lesson we learned from this will be shared, and other people can learn from it,” Parker said.

Beyond the reopening dates, the internal investigation continues into ARDOT as to how the bridge closed in the first place. This is the same investigation that resulted in the firing of the ARDOT employee who missed the fracture in the most recent bridge inspection.

Parker says ARDOT has referred the investigation to an expert outside of the bridge and maintenance sector of the agency to continue looking into how the bridge’s closure happened.

“The Federal Highway Administration is doing their own investigation of our bridge inspection program, which they tell us that should be wrapped up by sometime in September,” said Parker.

At the same time, the fractured support beam that caused the bridge’s closure is being sent to a forensics lab to definitively determine how old the crack is and what may have caused it.

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