Congressman from Tennessee said the crack was a warning of the urgent need to take action to fix the nation’s infrastructure.
A six-lane bridge in Memphis was closed Tuesday afternoon after inspectors found it. “Significant cracks” in one of two horizontal steel beams, 900 feet (274 m), were critical to the bridge’s integrity, director of Laurie Tudor. Arkansas Department of Transportation
Both states̵7; transportation agencies said they would make sure the 48-year-old 1.8-mile (2.9-kilometer) bridge was safe before it reopened.
“This fracture has a chance to turn into a catastrophic event with the diligent efforts of the authorities to manage our bridge inspection program,” said Tudor.
Traffic was diverted to Interstate 55 and the 71-year-old Memphis and Arkansas Bridge, 4.8 kilometers south.
River traffic was also shut down in the Memphis area until further notice, the Tennessee Department of Transportation said. The U.S. Coast Guard said 16 tugboat, towing more than 220 vessels, were waiting in line on Wednesday.
The shutdown created traffic congestion in Memphis and in nearby West Memphis, Arkansas, West Memphis emergency manager DeWayne Rose said officials were using an emergency plan to pick up injured patients. To a service facility in Memphis or to another nearby hospital.
“People in this area are used to lane closures, they are familiar with construction, they are used to shutdowns, and I think everyone has little advantage because of the uncertainty of this time frame,” Rose said.
Road crews are ready to dispose of cars that have crashed or stuck on the I-55 four-lane bridge, the next nearest Mississippi River crossing is about 60 miles (96 kilometers) to the south near Lula, Mississippi and 100. Miles (160 kilometers) to the north near Dyersburg, Tennessee.
Inspection teams are working to determine if the I-40 bridges can hold their own weight and the weight of construction workers, said Paul Degges, chief engineer of the Tennessee Transportation Department. Boat traffic will not resume until engineers decide the bridge can stand on its own, he said.
The process of determining these factors can take days and repairs can take much longer, Degges said.Arkansas is responsible for the inspections, while Tennessee is in charge of the maintenance and repairs, officials said.
“Obviously it could be months instead of weeks,” Degges said during the press conference. “We look forward to finding a solution that will help us keep traffic open. But now we don’t know “
Engineers are also trying to determine the cause of the cracks. Fatigue with tens of thousands of vehicles running over the bridge every day could be a contributing factor, Degges said.
“Fortunately, regular checks help prevent a potential disaster. But the state of our collapsed infrastructure is extremely troubling, ”said Steve Cohen, a representative from US Democrats, including Memphis.
Cohen said he would work with congressional delegations from Arkansas and Tennessee to ensure that improvements to the I-40 bridge were included in President Joe Biden’s infrastructure proposal.
Republicans in both states said the shutdown underscored the need for infrastructure spending, but not Biden’s $ 2.3 trillion plan, which they argued too much in the definition of public works.
“This highlights what I heard from Tennessee last week on the topic of Infrastructure: Investing in heavy infrastructure – roads and bridges are the types of investments that taxpayers will see in return and will support.” US Sen. Bill Hagerty in Tennessee said.
Senator John Buzman of Arkansas said he liked the GOP lawmakers’ plan that calls for $ 568 billion to spend on infrastructure over five years.
“I think infrastructure is urgently needed. I don’t agree with the president’s plan, ”Boozman said.
In reviewing the 2020 National Bridge Inventory Report, the Federal Highway Administration. It said the I-40 bridge was inspected as a whole in fair condition, with all the major structural elements being audible and there was only minor cracks and chips in the overall structure. Structural assessments have verified that “Rather better than the minimum sufficiency to tolerate being left as is.”
However, the height and width spacing for larger vehicles is “essentially impenetrable, requiring high-priority corrective action,” the Tennessee inspector recommended. “Replacing the bridge deck with only a slight expansion”
Arkansas transportation officials said the crack was not present in the most recent bridge inspection that took place in September 2020.
The I-40 bridge, which opened in 1973, had an average of 35,000 trucks per day in 2020, with 29 percent of trucks, according to Degges.The average is 50,000 vehicles per day, with about a quarter being trucks. The report said traffic will increase to 56,000 vehicles per day by 2040.
“I am not trying to be destructive and sorrowful. But this is a pretty dire situation for the regional economy … it really creates problems for us, ”said Republican Representative Rick Crawford. Including the end of the eastern Arkansas Bridge
The range also received an additional $ 280 million worth of installations for the possibility of an earthquake.
Bleed and DeMillo reporting from Little Rock, Arkansas, Associated Press correspondent Jonathan Mattise in Nashville contributed to this report.