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If the I-40 bridge is closed, the backup route is checked

MEMPHIS, Ten. (AP) – Inspection of 55 interstate bridges connecting Tennessee և Arkansas began on Tuesday, a week after the area became the state’s primary Mississippi River crossing when a cracked steel beam prompted the indefinite closure of 40 nearby interstate bridges. ,

Drone inspectors scrutinized the 71-year-old I-55 bridge to make sure it was structurally stable, able to withstand the sheer volume of traffic it saw after the I-40 bridge closed on May 11. Tennessee Department of Transportation.

Repairs to the heavily used I-40 bridge are expected to begin this week, but a long overhaul could take months, officials said. The United States relies on the I-55 Bridge to purchase cars, trucks, and commercial vehicles across the Mississippi River.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lin and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson told a news conference in Memphis that the two states, together with federal agencies, are working together to repair the I-40 Bridge. And Lee and Hutchinson are Republicans.

“We will work to restore it as soon as possible, but we will not endanger the safety of workers or the safety of citizens who cross the bridge to finish as soon as possible,” Lee said.

Officials are urging the I-55 bridge to be inspected “with extreme caution,” Bright said. If Tennessee inspectors find problems on the I-55 Bridge, which is about 4 miles (4.8 kilometers) south of the I-40 Bridge, it could lead to its closure, sending drivers 160 miles (160 kilometers) north of the intersection. Near Denisburg, Tennessee, or 60 miles (96 kilometers) south of Lula, Mississippi.

The new inspection is being carried out by Arkansas Transportation officials a day after an inspector who could not find a defect on the I-40 Bridge was fired. The drone video showed the Mississippi River bridge crash in May 2019, Arkansas Transportation Director Lori Tudor said Monday.

Tudor said the inspector did not notice the crack in his reports in the fall or next year. He called the mistake “unacceptable.” The department did not immediately name the employee, saying the case was also being sent to federal investigators.

The I-40 Bridge opened in 1973 and connected Memphis to West Memphis, Arkansas. It was stopped on May 11 after inspectors found a fracture in one of two 900-foot (274-meter) horizontal steel beams that were important to the bridge’s integrity. The river was closed that day, but reopened on Friday. Road traffic has changed to I-55, where traffic is heavy.

The closure of the I-40 Bridge has raised concerns about shipping and delivery costs. The Arkansas Freight Association estimates that the closure will cost the freight industry at least $ 2.4 million a day.

“It’s a critical, strong link for Arkansas,” Hutchinson said of the I-40. “Every time you see a trade break, when you see a bridge defect, you realize how much you depend on that flow. trade! “

Hutchinson called the I-40 closed bridge “a federal link that is important for our national security, whether it is a flow of fuel or a flow of other necessities across our country.”

The I-40 bridge could take several months to repair, Bright said. It will be implemented in two stages, և both steps must be completed before the bridge reopens.

The first step is to install steel sheets on each side of the broken beam to ensure the stability of the crew to permanently replace the damaged parts. The second stage involves removing and replacing the damaged part of the bridge.

The bridge closes as the White House negotiates with a Republican group in the Senate over an infrastructure package. Democrats cited the damage to the I-40 Bridge as an example of the urgent need for additional funding to repair the nation’s infrastructure.

Republicans have called for an infrastructure program that costs less than President Biden’s narrower definition of public works.

In Arkansas, all “breakable” bridges that have been inspected by a fired employee will be reviewed, Tudor said. The board is changing its inspection plan to add additional inspections, including the use of a new drone to help inspect the bridges.

Tudor said the damage to the I-40 bridge could lead to a “catastrophic” event.

Hutchinson said Tudor “took quick steps” to fire the employee and did not make excuses for the mistake.

“I think he did a great job of that,” Hutchinson said.

Tudor told Arkansas lawmakers that the inspection of the I-55 Bridge could be completed by Wednesday.

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