MEMPHIS, Tenn. — After a full week of the closure of the I-40 Bridge, FOX13 is learning more about how long the bridge could be closed.
According to ARDOT, there will be two phases to fixing the bridge.
Both phases could take several months before repairs are complete. Traffic cannot be allowed on the bridge until repairs are finished.
“We just don’t know how long this will take,” an official said. “All I can say is months. We are trying to source materials that are readily available to speed up the process.”
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee made a stop Tuesday in Memphis to assess progress on the Hernando de Soto Bridge repair.
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson joined Lee in a joint press conference to address the need for immediate federal action on infrastructure.
“Our number one priority is the safety of those who travel across that bridge,” Lee said.
Lee said they will work to repair the bridge as quickly as possible but will not compromise the safety of workers or travelers on the bridge during the work and after the repairs.
Hutchinson agreed the first concern is the safety of the workers on the bridge and future travelers on the I-40 bridge.
“We are going to work together to get this done as soon as possible,” Hutchinson said. “But the premium goal is safety.”
When asked for a comment on the terminated employee, Hutchinson believes Tudor showed great leadership to give people confidence the state is taking it seriously.
Every bridge that the terminated employee inspected will be re-inspected by ARDOT and third-party companies.
Lee said the bridge will be repaired to be structurally sound for now and in the future.
“We are trying to be as transparent as possible,” Lee said on updates.
According to officials, contact with several transportation companies to give them updates on the commerce situation.
“We will be monitoring the commerce and the bridge repairs,” Hutchinson said.
Lee was asked if they are talking about building a third bridge and he said their first priority is the repair of the I-40 bridge.
Both governors thanked all those in government offices that have reached out to help get the I-40 bridge back up and running plus the funds to get it fixed.
Phase One involves 18,000 pounds of steel in the form of two steel plates being added to both sides of the fractured part of the bridge.
That steel is being fabricated Wednesday and Thursday in Kentucky. TDOT is on standby to bring it to the job site.
Phase Two will bring in equipment and resources to cut the fracture out of the bridge to replace.
Officials started at 11 a.m. Tuesday inspecting the I-55 bridge for any safety concerns for travelers, since most I-40 bridge traffic has been diverted to that bridge.
ARDOT said two teams will continue work on the I-55 bridge. Crews are reviewing new drone footage and old reports to make sure the bridge is safe.
“We are making swift progress on repairs to the Hernando de Soto bridge to ensure safety and a return to uninterrupted commerce,” Gov. Lee said. “While Congress ponders the definition of infrastructure, we call upon the federal government to prioritize the safety of actual roads and bridges.”
A press release said:
American Rescue Plan funds are expressly prohibited from being spent on road, highway or bridge infrastructure. Currently, the American Rescue Plan designates $182 million to Shelby County and $161 million to the City of Memphis. The American Jobs Plan, touted as an infrastructure plan, would spend an estimated $2 trillion with a mere 5.6% dedicated to roads and bridges.
“We will continue investing in infrastructure for the safety of our citizens and the strength of our economy,” Gov. Lee said. “I commend the State of Arkansas, the Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers for their work and look forward to meaningful action out of Congress to address the condition of our roads and bridges across the country.”
Both governors emphasized updates will be continuously given.
Cox Media Group