I-40 Bridge Repair: The road to reopening continues

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The road to the re-opening of the I-40 Hernando de Soto Bridge continues.

Crews are continuing to repair the damage nearly two months after they found a cracked beam and shut it down.

Once bustling with a steady stream of traffic just two months ago, the bridge now sits empty — filled only with the repair crews working on getting it back open again.

”With any project, there are unknowns,” Tennessee Department of Transportation operations engineer Brandon Akins said. “But we have good engineer experience on this team, and it is a team effort.”

Engineers shut the bridge down on May 11 after finding a structural fracture in a steel beam. Since then, all bridge traffic has been diverted to Interstate 55. Akins said they’ve worked with the City of Memphis and the Arkansas Department of Transportation on ways to cut down on traffic time—including the recent widening of the I-55 southbound ramp to two lanes.

”Over the past few weeks, we’re showing a 77 percent decrease in the traffic delays on I-55, so that’s a great shoutout to the efforts of the stakeholders involved,” he said.

Meanwhile, Akins said repair crews are working around the clock on the repairs.

”We were able to cut the actual fractured member out. And we’re now moving on to the second component of phase two, which is steel rehabilitation,” he said.

Akins said workers have put in four of the eight steel plates needed for repairs. He said the remaining three are drilled and ready to be installed, and the final plate was scheduled to arrive Monday.

TDOT’s daily update released Monday afternoon stated, “They now have seven of the eight permanent plates in place. The drilling and bolting of these plates are ongoing. Fabrication of other miscellaneous steel components continues, and delivery is expected this week.”

Before they can determine a date for re-opening, Akins said TDOT’s structural division must inspect all the welds in the bridge to make sure they’re safe.

”That report is due preliminary this week, so we will reviewing that and again, opening up as soon as possible,” he said.

Akins said TDOT and ARDOT officials are working together to inspect the entire bridge during the process of the repairs to make sure it is completely safe for reopening.