Secretary Pete Tours I-40 Bridge as Closure Could Cost Trucking More Than $250 MILLION
West Memphis, AR – United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg today toured the closed Hernando DeSoto Bridge connecting Arkansas and Tennessee.
The Interstate 40 Mississippi River Bridge (as it is commonly known) has been shut down since May 11 after an inspection revealed a major break in the bottom side of the bridge truss.
On Thursday, Sec. Buttigieg told a group of assembled media the closure was an “area of national logistical importance.”
“Put simply, the reason that I am here is to emphasize that the situation with this bridge may be a regional issue but it is a national concern,” he commented. “We want to make sure that national attention and resources are available to help the state and local authorities who are resolving this and working toward the safe reopening of the bridge.”
When a bridge like the Hernando de Soto cracks, it threatens businesses, commuters, and the regional economy. Glad to have met with some of the workers relying on the bridge and the leaders working to fix it. pic.twitter.com/wKZmwXDght
— Secretary Pete Buttigieg (@SecretaryPete) June 3, 2021
Sec. Buttigieg also met with owners of a small trucking company as well as leaders at FedEx to learn more about the direct impacts the closure is having on truckers and the shipping community.
“I understand how challenging this has been in different ways. We’ve heard through [Memphis] Mayor Jim Strickland about trucks having been rerouted onto residential streets in West Memphis because their navigation apps sent them there… and heard from truckers who have pointed to losses in the millions every day from the delays and the reroutes,” the Secretary said.
According to the latest data from the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), commute times from the I-55/I-40 interchange in Arkansas southbound to just across the I-55 River Bridge — which is where traffic is being rerouted — is averaging between 55 to 65 minutes during peak hours of 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Northbound travelers between the interchange of I-55 with U.S. 61 and the Crump Interchange just before the I-55 River Crossing are experiencing commute times between 29 and 25 minutes, TDOT said this week.
The Arkansas Trucking Association (ARTA) estimates the I-40 Bridge closure is costing the industry $2.4 million each day in delays.
Though phase one of a two-phase repair plan has been accomplished ahead of schedule, transportation officials still do not expect the I-40 Bridge to be reopened for at least another two to three months.
However, at this time, no official timetable has yet been determined.
If ARTA’s estimate is accurate, this would result in losses to the trucking industry of more than $250 million.
“It’s one more reminder, just like the Colonial Pipeline incident was, of how much we depend on critical infrastructure that most days we don’t even think about,” Sec. Buttigieg said of the mounting costs.
TransportationNation.com will continue to follow this story closely.