MEMPHIS, Tenn. — This week we could have a timeline for when the I-40 bridge could reopen, nearly three weeks after it was closed due to a fracture in a beam.
Right now, traffic is diverted on the I-55 bridge, but Sunday night part of I-55 was shut down due to a tractor-trailer fire. That showed the importance of getting the Hernando DeSoto Bridge reopen.
TDOT says while there might not be a lot of activity on the bridge this holiday weekend, we can see work is happening behind the scenes.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation says as we look to phase two of I-40 bridge repairs final design drawings are in the works. The contractor is sourcing the steel components needed and some materials are set to arrive this week.
Late Sunday night along I-55, just south of the bridge, a big rig fire forced the closure of southbound lanes near west McLemore. The fire department said they had no way to put out the engulfed truck, so they had to just let it burn.
The fire happened at a time with fewer drivers on the road. But TDOT said they’re seeing an average of 67,000 vehicles a day now using the I-55 bridge, which has led to traffic delays and a renewed discussion of the need for a third bridge crossing the Mississippi River.
It is a conversation Tennessee State Representatives Joe Towns and Dwayne Thompson brought up last week.
“That’s our commitment. To try and get the state of Tennessee to commit towards this, make it a goal for a third bridge across the Mississippi, in Shelby County, from Memphis to Arkansas,” said Dwayne Thompson, (D) Memphis.
But at the city level, Memphis City Councilman JB Smiley Jr. doesn’t think that’s the best use of dollars and said there’s other investments that to be made.
“I don’t necessarily know we should go that far. Before, you know, we invest hundreds of millions of dollars into a third bridge, let’s repair what we have, but then let’s talk about investing in the city of Memphis,” Smiley said.
Also looking ahead this week, the secretary of transportation will be in Memphis to look at the bridge and push the president’s infrastructure plan.