A Major Bridge in Memphis Has Reopened
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Traffic delays due to construction are never fun, and Memphis residents have been dealing with congested roads since May. However, their problem is finally solved.
The Hernando DeSoto Bridge which sees heavy traffic was shut down when inspectors discovered a structural crack during a routine inspection. According to CNN, nearly three months after the crack forced its closure, the bridge is finally reopened.
The Hernando DeSoto Bridge reopens
The bridge connects Memphis, Tennessee, to Arkansas and carries Interstate 40 over the Mississippi River. Officially opened in 1973, the bridge is 3.3 miles long and is one of the only two Mississippi River crossings in the Memphis area.
According to the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), the bridge carries about 60,000 vehicles daily.
When inspectors discovered the significant fracture on the Hernando DeSoto Bridge into Memphis, the team immediately called 911 and closed the bridge for repairs. The closure has been seriously affecting traffic, forcing thousands of cars and trucks to detour for months.
Some in Tennessee believe that this crack indicates an urgent need to fix and update the nation's infrastructure. However, others are concerned about where the money to make these fixes will come from.
Background on the major bridge in Memphis
The Hernando DeSoto Bridge was last inspected in 2019 as part of a routine inspection that occurs every two years. Though the crack was spotted recently, Lorie Tudor, Arkansas Department of Transportation Director, said that a drone video showed the fracture on the bridge spanning the Mississippi River in May 2019.
Tudor also mentioned that the inspector's report in fall 2019 and the following year did not include details about the crack. For that reason, the inspector was fired.
The fracture was found on a steel box beam near the middle of the bridge. The beam is essential to the structure, so fixing the break was instrumental to restoring the integrity of the bridge. Afterward, TDOT officials said that the damage appeared to be fatigue-related, as their officials were in charge of maintenance and repairs.
Once the fracture was identified, TDOT assessed whether or not the bridge would hold its weight, and if it would be safe for crews to go out on and barge traffic to travel under.
The Coast Guard then placed a waterway restriction on the Mississippi River. At least 16 vessels with 229 barges were forced to park up and down the river. Arkansas I-40 eastbound traffic was rerouted to Interstate 55 to go into Memphis. Tennessee I-40 westbound traffic was rerouted to the I-55 Bridge across the river to cross into Arkansas.
Which group was responsible for the repairs?
Nebraska-based Kiewit Corporation was selected to handle the Hernando DeSoto Bridge repair work. The states of Arkansas and Tennessee will be splitting the costs for repairing the bridge.
The bridge was finished and reopened ahead of schedule in August, which was a huge relief for those who use it.
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