TDOT to load test I-40 Bridge Wednesday; exact opening date still unclear

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — There is more progress on the Hernando-Desoto bridge repairs. TDOT announced it will be load testing the I-40 Bridge Wednesday.

“Contractors were able to make significant progress over the weekend,” TDOT said in Monday’s update. “All 17 plates are in place. Drilling, bolting, and torqueing are ongoing.”

TDOT said the complete installation of the plates is a process that also involves the removal of the lateral bracing, modification of the gusset connection plate, and reinstallation of the lateral bracing. Once the last bolt is torqued on the plate, these items can be completed.

PHOTOS: I-40 Bridge closed after crack discovered

On Wednesday, TDOT will be load testing the bridge to monitor the performance using the existing sensors on the bridge.

The data will be used to monitor how the stresses are transferred throughout the bridge support system.

“We do not have an exact opening date yet, but we are getting close. A schedule will be shared as soon as it’s available,” TDOT said.

Dr. Andrew Assadollahi with Christian Brothers University said this is a step in the right direction.

He is the Department Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University.

“What they may do for this bridge is drive some kind of vehicle or truck of some sort over part of the bridge and some sensors will record the strains and the stresses that develop in the supporting members,” said Dr. Assadollahi.

“This new big step of stress testing the bridge itself is a very significant step in a positive direction toward eventually reopening the bridge.”

On Friday, TDOT officials said the I-40 Bridge would likely not reopen until August.

Dr. Assadollahi said that’s not surprising. He said after the load testing engineers will look at the data.

“This still could take a lot of time,” he said. “We are probably still looking at some weeks. I guess it just depends on what the results of the data show,” said Dr. Assadollahi.

Right now TDOT has not shared a reopening date for the bridge yet.

RELATED: 2019 Photo appears to show crack in I-40 Bridge then

The I-40 Bridge connecting West Memphis, Arkansas and Memphis, Tennessee was abruptly shut down on May 11 after a crack was found in the bridge during routine bridge inspection by crews with the Arkansas Department of Transportation.

People began coming forward with videos and photos of the bridge, showing the beginning of a fracture in the bridge’s structure. ARDOT confirmed that the crack was forming in 2019, and one man claimed to have proof of the break dating as far back as 2016.

RELATED: Local man says his pictures show I-40 Bridge damage from 2016

The infrastructure issue brought the governors of Arkansas and Tennessee and White House officials to the Mid-South to discuss the problem and brought attention to other local bridges.

At best, transportation officials expected it to take months to reopen the fracture.

RELATED: ‘All I can say is months’: Officials confirm long-term closure of I-40 Bridge

Meanwhile, Mid-South cities dealt with the fallout.

Around 60,000 commuters a day were impacted, leaving frustrated drivers and city officials on both sides of the Mississippi River.

FOX13 is continuing to cover the I-40 Bridge Closure. Check back here for future updates on this developing situation.