MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Progress is being made with the repairs of the Hernando Desoto Bridge, but questions remain when the major artery will reopen for traffic?
On Monday, members of the media had a chance to see the damage and the repair work,as one MId-South town north of Memphis is benefiting from the bridge closure.
“Just know we’re working 24 hours a day to get this thing open as quickly as possible, but as safe as possible,” said Brandon Akins, a TDOT operations engineer.
Along the north face of the Hernando DeSoto I-40 bridge, the eighth and last steel slab weighing a massive six-thousand pounds was put into place as Tennessee Department of Transportation crews work to repair the damaged structure.
“We were able to install a pulley system to allow us to get the plates down and secure in place so we can do the drilling and bolting as necessary,” Akins said. “Again, there are over 4,000 bolts to be put in place. It is a very slow process to drill those bolts and get them installed, but we are working 24 hours a day to get it installed as quick as possible.”
The fractured bridge prompted its immediate shutdown on May 11. It’s still not known when it will reopen.
“It’s hard to give a time frame at this time until the preliminary report is out and due,” said Akins.
Traffic has been re-routed to the Interstate 55 Bridge, which at first caused traffic delays,
But T-DOT says expanding the I-55 southbound ramp to two lanes has decreased delay times by 70 percent.
“We have saved in delay costs about $21 million over the last two weeks, so significant delays,” Akins said.
Delays and detours have forced many to travel about an hour and a half north of Memphis to cross the river near the city of Dyersburg.
“We knew the next best route would be through our community across the Mississippi River at Caruthersville,” said Dyersburg Mayor John Holden.
Mayor Holden tells WREG the I-40 shutdown has been good for business.
“We had a meeting with some of the staff folk here and police department just making sure everybody was aware of that with increased traffic coming our way and it has and we are appreciative of that for the city of Dyersburg and the businesses in Dyersburg,” said Holden.
Back in Memphis, TDOT says its working closely with Arkansas transportation leaders to make sure the entire bridge is inspected from top to bottom and safe for drivers when it reopens