MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The future of the Interstate 40 Hernando Desoto Bridge is up in the air as officials say they don’t know when the bridge will reopen and it’s impacting thousands during their daily commutes.
The bridge, one of two that spans the Mississippi River between Tennessee and Arkansas at Memphis, carries around 40,000 vehicles a day, but was shut down for emergency repairs after a crack in a beam was discovered Tuesday. That leaves drivers with only the Interstate 55 bridge on the south end of downtown.
There were major delays Wednesday morning on I-55 near exit four. One trucker said he was in traffic for about 45 minutes just to get to that point.
“One bridge for you to get across? It’s going to be a mess all day long,” said Khaliq Bey.
It was a chaotic morning for people driving into Memphis across the I-55 bridge.
“It was moving about 30 miles per hour for the most part. We did have to stop a couple of times but so far not too bad this morning,” said one delivery driver.
Traffic was backed up for miles as truckers and delivery drivers who would otherwise take the I-40 bridge were forced to take the I-55 bridge as an alternative route.
The I-40 bridge was closed as a safety precaution after a crack was found during a routine inspection. West Memphis Police are on standby to help direct traffic when needed.
Bey was on his way to South Carolina but had to let the company he’s delivering to know he’s going to be behind schedule. He said he saw the signs on the interstate warning of the closure but said nothing could prepare him for what he was about to drive into.
“It’s going to be a while trying to get across that bridge,” he said.
And he wasn’t the only one inconvenienced by the closure.
Several other drivers WREG spoke to said they have to readjust their routine with hopes of staying on schedule.
“I’m trying to get out the way and get all my jobs lined up downtown and get away from down here before it stops up,” said Steve Tate.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation as well as the Arkansas Department of Transportation officials have not said when they anticipate the bridge will reopen.
However, TDOT officials said there is a possibility the I-40 bridge could be closed for months as it undergoes inspection and repairs.
TDOT officials said of the nearly 50,000 vehicles that cross the I-40 bridge on a daily basis, about 25% of them are trucks.