The Hernando Desoto/I-40 Bridge, which stretches over the Mississippi River and serves as a connection point between Memphis and Arkansas, has been shut down indefinitely after a crack in a beam was discovered. According to Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) officials, of the nearly 41,000 vehicles that cross the I-40 bridge on a daily basis, about 30% of them are commercial trucks.
Geographically positioned as a gateway between cities in the eastern and western United States, Memphis serves as a major connection for many transcontinental truck shipments. Complementing its strategic positioning, nearly 900 miles of interstate and U.S. designated highways strengthen the movement of inbound of outbound goods.
The bridge is located on I-40, which connects the east side of Tennessee including the cities of Knoxville, Nashville, and Jackson to the Greater Memphis region. In addition, I-40 connects the Greater Memphis region on the west to Little Rock, Oklahoma City, and continues to the southern portion of California.
This closure will impact nearly all modes of transportation in and around Memphis, TN. See below for a breakdown of what we are experiencing and expecting:
Trucking: Trucks will be able to take alternate routes, but the transit time will be longer due to both routing and additional traffic. There is only one other bridge in the area that allows traffic to cross over the Mississippi River. Also, the added transit time due to alternate routings may cause truckers to exceed their allotted drive time.
Barge Traffic: The United States Coast Guard has issued a waterway restriction Wednesday on part of the Lower Mississippi River after the crack was discovered in the bridge. At least 16 vessels with a total of 229 barges are parked up and down the Mississippi River, the Coast Guard said. Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) is in the process of evaluating whether or not the bridge is stable enough to allow for barge traffic to continue. Delays are to be expected. **As of Friday, May 14, the bridge is open for barge traffic to cross underneath the bridge. More than 1,000 barges were previously halted, so delays are to be expected.**
Rail/Warehouse: Due to truckers having to take alternate routes, there has been an increase in missed rail/warehouse pick-up and drop-off appointment times, resulting in decreased turns. This is expected to also have an effect on exports booking where the trucker may not be able to deliver all containers for a specific booking by the rail cutoff dates. As such, additional containers may be split/rolled into later bookings.
The crack in the bridge is reportedly a fatigue-type fracture due to the bridge’s age. ARDOT and TDOT share equally in the responsibility of repairs. Emergency funds have already been approved, but there is no timetable on when repairs will begin nor how long they will take.
Mallory Alexander is continuing to monitor this ongoing situation. As listed above, clients should be prepared for any potential or expected delays as freight moves through the area.