Repairs to the Interstate 40 bridge linking Arkansas and Tennessee could take months after a crack was found in the span, forcing thousands of trucks and cars to detour and shutting down shipping on a section of the Mississippi River.
The six-lane bridge Hernando DeSoto Bridge into Memphis, was shut down Tuesday afternoon after inspectors found a “significant fracture” in one of two 900-foot horizontal steel beams that are crucial for the bridge’s integrity. River traffic was also shut down in the Memphis area until further notice, the Tennessee Department of Transportation said.
The closure is creating traffic congestion in Memphis and neighboring West Memphis, Arkansas. The next nearest Mississippi River crossings are about 60 miles to the south near Lula, Mississippi, and 100 miles to the north near Dyersburg, Tennessee.
Inspectors worked to determine if the I-40 bridge could hold its own weight and the weight of construction crews, said Paul Degges, chief engineer for the Tennessee transportation department. Barge traffic will not resume until engineers decide that the bridge can stand on its own, he said.
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