MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tennessee, where a shutdown of the Hernando DeSoto Bridge in Memphis became a symbol for the nation’s aging infrastructure last year, will receive $302 million to fix about 880 bridges in poor condition and to preserve and improve more than 10,700 bridges in fair condition.
The money comes from the state’s share of the Bridge Replacement, Rehabilitation, Preservation, Protection, and Construction Program, part of President Biden’s Infrastructure Law. That program will provide $26.5 billion in bridge funding to states and territories this year and $5.3 billion over five years.
The state is expected to receive $60.4 million in the current fiscal year.
The Federal Highway Administration calls it the single largest dedicated bridge investment since the construction of the interstate highway system.
Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Memphis) called the package “transformational.”
“Today’s announcement on much-needed funding for bridge rehabilitation reminds us of the emergency repairs needed just last summer on the crucial national freight corridor over the Hernando DeSoto Bridge linking Tennessee to Arkansas at the nation’s mid-section,” Cohen said in a statement. “These long-term investments will pay dividends for decades.”
On May 11 last year, the Hernando DeSoto Bridge, which carries traffic on Interstate 40 between Tennessee and Arkansas, was abruptly closed when inspectors found a major crack in a support beam. An investigation showed the crack dated back years.
The closure meant all traffic across the Mississippi River was diverted to one bridge in Memphis, creating major traffic backups for truckers, commuters and travelers in Memphis and West Memphis.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg made a visit to the bridge during the closure. It reopened in August.