Crack in Bridge Connecting Arkansas to Tennessee Comes With Consequences, Debate

Goods movement on the Mississippi River, as well as truck traffic on a key interstate, has ground to a halt after a crack was discovered last week in a bridge on Interstate 40 connecting to Memphis.

2 minute read

May 19, 2021, 10:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Memphis, Tennessee

The Memphis end of the Hernando de Soto Bridge. | Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

The Hernando de Soto Bridge, which links Interstate 40 across the Mississippi River between West Memphis, Arkansas and Memphis, Tennessee, has been shut down after a crack was discovered last week in one of the two 900-foot steel beams that support the bridge. As reported by the Associated Press on May 12, the bridge was shut down, forcing thousands of trucks and cars to detour to Interstate 55 and halting shipping on the Mississippi River.

The discovery of the crack has sparked a renewed the debate about the state of the nation's infrastructure and the spending proposed by the Biden administration's American Jobs Plan, according to the article. The article references Democrats pointing to the need for more infrastructure spending and Republicans also calling for more spending while criticizing the Biden plan.

According to a separate article by Doha Modani, "the crack in Memphis is just the latest disaster in recent supply chain issues that have highlighted the country’s infrastructure issues." Modani, writing a day later, also provides new details about the state of the bridge, the difficulties in repairing the bridge, and the delay in interstate commerce created by the bridge's closure. As of last Thursday, there were 44 vessels with a total of 709 barges waiting to pass through the river, according to a tweet by the Coast Guard referenced in the article.

Finally, the bridge's closure also came with consequences for the inspector who missed the crack during previous inspections. Arkansas Department of Transportation Director Lorie Tudor announced the firing on May 17, after drone footage from May 2019 showed the crack.

The event recalls the experience of Cincinnati and surrounding cities in November 2020, when two bridges across the Ohio River were closed on the same day, sparking a similar debate about infrastructure spending.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021 in Associated Press via NBC News

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