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

Aerial view of snowy single-family homes in suburban Long Island, New York

New York Governor Advances Housing Plan Amid Stiff Suburban Opposition

Governor Kathy Hochul’s ambitious proposal to create more housing has once again run into a brick wall of opposition in New York’s enormous suburbs, especially on Long Island. This year, however, the wall may have some cracks.

March 20, 2023 - Mark H. McNulty

Empty parking garage at night with yellow lines marking spots and fluorescent lighting

Rethinking the Role of Parking in the American City

In cities big and small, the tide is turning against sprawling parking lots, car-centric development, and minimum parking mandates.

March 16, 2023 - The New York Times

A futuristic version of New York City, with plants growing neatly on top of modern skycrapers.

Friday Eye Candy: 20 AI-Generated Cityscapes

AI-generated images are creating new landscapes and cityscapes, capable of inspiring awe or fear.

March 17, 2023 - Chris Steins via Medium

Minneapolis Stone Arch Bridge

Panel: Minneapolis Zoning Updates Should Reflect Mixed-Use Future

A discussion of post-pandemic changes in work and commuting concluded that the city’s overhaul of its zoning code should be less restrictive with land uses.

34 minutes ago - MinnPost

Bike Light

People on Bikes Outnumber Drivers in the City of London

The City of London’s efforts to increase biking and reduce driving has finally achieved a long-term goal: a preference for biking over driving.

1 hour ago - Forbes

Aerial view of farmers' market with white booths in downtown Boise, Idaho

Planners Look to ‘Activity Centers’ for Sustainable Development

Existing hubs of ‘hyperlocal’ economic activity provide a model for urban density.

March 23 - Smart Cities Dive

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

HUD’s 2023 Innovative Housing Showcase

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.