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Interstate 40 Bridge Over Mississippi River Reopen Beginning Monday

A crack discovered in a steel support beam underneath the Interstate 40 bridge between Arkansas and Tennessee forced its closure in May.
Arkansas Department of Transportation
A crack discovered in a steel support beam underneath the Interstate 40 bridge between Arkansas and Tennessee forced its closure in May.

The Interstate 40 bridge, linking Arkansas and Tennessee over the Mississippi River, is set to reopen next week. The Arkansas Department of Transportation announced Wednesday the eastbound lanes of I-40 will open at 6 a.m. on Monday, while the westbound lanes will open the following Friday.

According to Dave Parker with the department, the staggered opening of the Hernando DeSoto Bridge is mostly due to logistics.

"There’s a lot of construction material, equipment that has been on the bridge. What we’ve been doing, the repairs or well [the Tennessee Department of Transportation] TDOT’s been doing repairs. So, there’s a lot of equipment up there and it basically boils down to 'let’s start one side at a time,'" Parker said.

Parker says the date of the reopening of the bridge over the Mississippi River is generally what they had been hoping for timeline wise.

"We’d been saying for weeks now, along with the Tennessee Department of Transportation that we were eyeing a late July, early August reopening date and it appears we are going to be right on schedule," Parker said.

The bridge had been closed since May when a crack was discovered in a steel support beam. A series of inspections failed to detect the crack, which had gone unnoticed for years. ARDOT fired the employee in charge of inspecting the bridge and has been re-inspecting other bridges the employeed had also surveyed.

Workers this past week completed the installation of the steel plates needed to repair the bridge. Parker praised the Tennessee Department of Transportation, which collaborated with Arkansas on this effort, saying the teamwork between all parties involved has been fantastic.

"I think this is going to be a lesson learned and you’ll be hearing a lot about the teamwork that we all built and we’ll be sharing that story a lot, hoping that anyone, not just departments of transportation, but any large business who may one day, unfortunately encounter a big situation like we had and lessons learned from it," Parker said.

According to Parker, to date, the cost of repairing the bridge is about $9.5 million dollars, though the final cost has yet to be estimated. Both ARDOT and the Tennessee Department of Transportation will split the cost of repairs. As far as the impact this situation will possibly have on transportation in Arkansas, Parker says it "can’t not help."

"Anytime anyone looks at ‘This is the way we do things and this is our program, these are our people’ and then you’re, because of circumstances, are asked or forced or needed to look at things. I don’t think that’s ever a bad thing. It’s a moment where you have to say ‘Okay, we’re in good shape, but we can be better.’ We’ve proven that there can be errors, we admitted that and we’re fixing them," Parker said.

Sarah Kellogg was a Politics and Government reporter for KUAR from November 2018- August 2021.
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