Transportation officials in Tennessee and Arkansas later this week expect to announce a timeline for the reopening of the Hernando de Soto Bridge, which carries Interstate 40 over the Mississippi River between the two states. Also, on Thursday, June 3, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is scheduled to visit the bridge, which was closed May 11 when a crack was found in a steel beam.
Engineers from the two states last week announced they decided to fix the much-traveled bridge by adding steel plating around the cracked area. The Tennessee DOT said that repair could be completed sooner than replacing the entire 900-foot-long beam. The crack was discovered as part of a routine inspection, and the bridge was closed immediately.
No price tag for the repairs has been announced.
Since the closing, all traffic is diverted to the Arkansas-Memphis Bridge on Interstate 55. As many as 65,000 vehicles now use that crossing each day.
Trucking has been hit especially hard by the closing and resulting detour. The Arkansas Trucking Association estimates the closure costs the trucking industry $2.4 million each day.
The Arkansas DOT said recently some 12,500 trucks traveled over the I-40 bridge each day. They now join the 14,000 trucks that cross the I-55 bridge. What had been an eight-minute trip over the I-40 bridge now takes as long as 80 minutes, according to the Arkansas Trucking Association.