WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. — The traffic nightmare that has plagued West Memphis this summer due to the I-40 bridge closure has finally come to an end.
The eastbound lanes of the Hernando de Soto Bridge reopened Saturday night relieving stress on the West Memphis roadways. Many residents in the West Memphis area say they’re pleased to see the bridge reopening.
People living in West Memphis also said it is a relief to be able to drive the roadways and not have to worry about waiting in traffic for nearly hours. However, the mayor says while the traffic nightmare may be over, the conversation over infrastructure doesn’t stop with the I-40 bridge.
“Right now, it feels good to have our roads free,” said Kathaleen Bragg, a West Memphis Resident.
West Memphis residents we spoke to rejoiced knowing they once again have the freedom to ride through their roadways with little interruption since all eastbound lanes of the I-40 bridge are open.
For more than two months, I-55 was backed up for miles as repairs continued on the I-40 bridge and all traffic was redirected to the I-55 bridge.
Not only did this put a toll on businesses but according to West Memphis Mayor Marco McClendon, this also put a heavy toll on residents.
“Children couldn’t play in their yards due to the fact that you had 18-wheelers coming through the community,” said McClendon.
Residents like Perry Jones says there were times people couldn’t leave their homes because motorists were using the residential roadways as shortcuts to avoid traffic on I-55.
“It was backed up all the way in the neighborhood. You couldn’t even get in your own yard. People that knew the shortcuts around here were taking the shortcuts. So, it was causing a whole lot of problems,” said Jones.
McClendon says a huge problem was the damage done to the roadways.
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“We had some streets that were already in need of repair and then you have oversized trucks on community streets that were never designed for those vehicles,” McClendon said.
West Memphis resident Joseph Tucker Jr. added, “They have been torn up due to the bridge closure but now that that is gone, we can get back to a normal life, and hopefully we can get our roads fixed.”
And Mayor McClendon says he plans on making repairs to the roadways a top priority moving forward.
“I’m still going to continue to fight to get some money for infrastructure to make sure that we get our streets repaired and work with ARDot to make sure that we get our state highways and service roads together,” said McClendon.
West Memphis resident Perry Jones added, “More work right now? Probably not a good idea. Let us a catch a break first, but if it needs to be done, we got to do it.”
TDOT says the westbound lanes are still scheduled to reopen on August 6, but there’s a possibility they could reopen sooner.
Until then, TDOT wants to remind everyone that the I-40 bridge is still an active work zone.