‘It’s old, it’s antiquated, in poor repair:’ Congressman says Memphis bridge closure highlights nation’s infrastructure issues


MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Departments of Transportation in Tennessee and Arkansas are working to determine the best way forward after crews found a major crack on the I-40 bridge over the Mississippi River in Memphis.

Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen represents Memphis and said it’s an issue of national concern.

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“That’s a tremendous damage to commerce all throughout the country,” said Representative Cohen. “In Memphis, East-West is I-40 and North-South is not only I-55 but it’s the river and so a whole lot of commerce goes through Memphis on the river and on the highway – of course through FedEx – but this is going to be damaging to the nation’s economy.”

Crews found a major crack in the Hernando Desoto bridge over the this week prompting a shutdown for emergency repairs.

(Courtesy: ARDOT)
(Courtesy: ARDOT)
(Courtesy: ARDOT)
(Courtesy: ARDOT)

The departments of transportation have now generated a computer model for the bridge and adjusted it to include the damage and current conditions. They’ll now use that model to test future repairs. Engineers are also talking with the U.S. Coast Guard about the risk factor for reopening the river to barge traffic.

“We’ve talked to the Department of Transportation and the White House as well. We’ve asked them for whatever expertise and help they can give us financially as well as any expertise they can provide in repairs,” Congressman Cohen said. “It’s going to be expensive. Tennessee and Arkansas are responsible but it’s expensive and the longer it takes the more we lose in commerce.”

The departments of transportation said the first step to reopening the bridge will be temporary repairs. That way they can make sure crews are safe while putting long term repairs into place.

Congressman Cohen said the incident highlighted the need for improving the country’s infrastructure. The Hernando Desoto bridge carries nearly 50,000 vehicles a day and is almost 50 years old.

“It’s old, it’s antiquated, in poor repair,” Cohen said of the nation’s infrastructure. “And it’s ripe for disaster and for people to lose their lives. We’ve had bridges go out. There’s the bridge in Minneapolis in Saint Paul several years ago that cost lives, a bad one in West Virginia maybe 20-30 years ago. There’s been some in Tennessee.”


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