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County judge: I-40 bridge to begin opening this weekend

by Noel Oman | July 27, 2021 at 9:16 p.m.
The I-40 Hernando de Soto Bridge crossing the Mississippi River connecting Arkansas and Tennessee on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. The bridge has been closed since inspectors found a fracture in the bridge. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe)

The Interstate 40 bridge over the Mississippi River at Memphis is scheduled to start re-opening Sunday night, just under 12 weeks after it was abruptly closed when a fracture affecting the integrity of the structure was discovered, according to Crittenden County’s top executive.

The extent of the round-the-clock repairs will allow the eastbound lanes to re-open “Sunday night/Monday morning” and the westbound lanes “a few days later,” County Judge Woody Wheeless said in a statement posted on his official Facebook account Tuesday evening.

Re-opening even one eastbound lane would relieve some pressure on the only other nearby option to cross the river, the Memphis and Arkansas bridge on Interstate 55. That bridge has just two lanes in each direction with no shoulders, leaving traffic backups into West Memphis eastbound when a vehicle is disabled or a crash happens on the bridge.

A news release was scheduled to be released Wednesday morning, Wheeless said.

Nichole Lawrence, a spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Transportation, declined to confirm the details Wheeless outlined but said in a text message Tuesday evening that the agency has an “an opening plan for the I-40 bridge.”

She did confirm an announcement was to be made Wednesday morning.

“As we have done through this entire process, we are coordinating all communication with TDOT,” Arkansas Department of Transportation spokesman Dave Parker said Tuesday night. “Any updates or reopening announcements will be communicated jointly.”

Read Wednesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for the full story.

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