MEMPHIS, Tenn. — We’re getting one step closer to getting vehicles back on the I-40 bridge in Memphis, which has been closed since May when an inspector discovered a large crack in a beam.
A spokesperson with Tennessee Department of Transportation says the goal is to open the bridge by the end of this month. That could mean the bridge is open to limited, or possibly full traffic. But completion could be different.
Within the last 24 hours, painting of Phase 2 of the repairs has been underway.
TDOT says over the weekend they started Phase 3 of repairs as well, fixing areas of additional concern found in an inspection. That includes final bolting, removal and installation of various pieces and installing access platforms for Phase 3 work.
“I don’t know if we’ve ever had a crisis like this on one of our major bridges, especially along I-40,” TDOT spokesperson Nichole Lawrence said. “That’s a major corridor for the nation, not just Memphis.”
So far TDOT has identified the need for nine additional plates to help with the repairs. Crews are in the process of getting the needed materials.
“We’re definitely excited about almost completing the final phase,” said Marco McClendon, mayor of West Memphis, Arkansas.
His city has dealt with its share of issues with the closure: gridlock on the interstate, and sometimes bumper-to-bumper traffic in neighborhoods as people looked for alternate routes.
McClendon said once the bridge re-opens, a new focus will be to secure funding to help repair damaged roads in the city impacted by the extra traffic the last few months.
But he credits TDOT and ARDOT for making changes to improve traffic problems.
“I mean it’s not where it needs to be. It only takes one accident and we have that one accident to back up traffic,” McClendon said, “but for the most part traffic is moving relatively fine.”
He hopes the closure and repairs bring on bigger fixes.
“I’m definitely hoping, praying for a bipartisan infrastructure deal to get done, because I don’t want any other city to have to go through what Memphis and West Memphis have had to deal with a bridge as important as the I-40 bridge,” McClendon said.