I-40 Closure & Its Impact

May 17 2021

Last Wednesday, May 12, 2021, the Interstate 40 (I-40) bridge linking Arkansas and Tennessee closed for repairs after a large crack was found in one of the steel beams. Repairs could take months and, so far, have caused a huge disruption to thousands of cars and trucks, as well as shut down shipping on the Mississippi River. A few days later on Friday, May 14th, “The U.S. Coast Guard…reopened the Mississippi River to maritime traffic, ending a shutdown that stranded more than 1,000 barges on the key conduit for agriculture exports.” (According to Transport Topics.)

They continued that the river opening provided “relief to the queue of 62 vessels and 1,058 barges stranded on the north and south sides of the Interstate 40 Hernando DeSoto Bridge near Memphis, Tenn.” The 6-lane bridge is still closed indefinitely and all traffic is being rerouted to I-55 – a three mile detour. According to Arkansas Trucking Association President Shannon Newton, “the trip on the I-40 bridge between the two states averaged eight minutes. Since the I-40 bridge closure, trips on the I-55 bridge being used as the closest alternate route have averaged 84 minutes.”

The crack was discovered in a routine check of the bridge and most likely occurred because of years of having tens of thousands of vehicles pass daily over the bridge (something we in Cincinnati have seen firsthand with the Brent-Spence Bridge). After the crack was discovered, the bridge was assessed to ensure stability on it’s own and now according to this CNN article, “a design team is looking at an interim repair for the crack on the Interstate 40 bridge in Memphis until a new part can be made to replace the bridge's damaged section,” said the Tennessee Department of Transportation on Friday. The team is working on a design concept that could use steel rods that would “span over the fractured section, and provide the needed strength to reopen the bridge to vehicular traffic.”

This crack has shown just a portion of our nation’s crumbling infostructure that the current Administration hopes to repair. Furthermore, it shows how much a shift in the supply chain creates a domino effect impacting the transportation industry as a whole. (Click here for our most recent blog on this subject.) You can assume the severity of this domino effect when you think about the closure of a bridge that in 2020 had an estimated average of 35,000 vehicles a day across the river, 29% of them trucks, according to a report done by Arkansas transportation officials.

It continues to be a difficult time for the transportation industry with the intense pressures from the past year, trucker shortage, ever present demand and more so need for our industry to constantly move. We at Kingsgate continually look for ways to ship our customers freight better, fast and safer, especially as the industry changes! We’ve done so for 35 years and aren’t looking to stop any time soon.

All the Best,

Jeff Beckham


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