Traffic remains detoured to cross the MS River either via I-55 or Highway 49 bridges Motorists should utilize IDriveArkansas, call or text AR’s Traveler Information #501-569-2374, utilize SmartWay or call TN’s Traveler Information #877-244-0065 for the latest traffic information.
First we have a timeline of events in reverse order (as of July 6, 2021), so you can always check back for updates. Below the series of updates we have a photo gallery and a FAQ section, so be sure to scroll down for more. We’re also actively monitoring the #40MSRiverBridge hashtag on Twitter and responding as we can.
July 26, 2021
Contractors were able to make significant progress over the weekend. All 17 plates are in place. Drilling, bolting, and torqueing are ongoing.
A reminder the complete installation of these plates is a process that also involves the removal of the lateral bracing, modification of the gusset connection plate, and reinstallation of the lateral bracing. Once the last bolt is torqued on the plate, these items can be completed. On Wednesday, we will be load testing the bridge to monitor the performance using the existing sensors on the bridge. The data will be used to monitor how the stresses are transferred throughout the bridge support system.
We do not have an exact opening date yet, but we are getting close.
July 23, 2021
Contractors are progressing on the phase three repairs. There is now a total of 17 plates. Thirteen of the 17 plates have been at least “rough-set.”
The last four plates are arriving today and will be set over the next few days. Aside from the drilling, bolting, and torqueing, installation of these plates is a process that also involves the removal of the lateral bracing, modification of the gusset connection plate, and reinstallation of the lateral bracing. Once the last bolt is torqued on the plate, these items can be completed.
July 19, 2021
Contractors are making progress on the phase three repairs. The first five of six plates are set. The remaining ten plates needed for the additional work will be delivered in three shipments. The first is expected tomorrow. 24/7 operations resume this week.
July 15, 2021
TDOT reports progress is being made on the phase three repairs. The first six plates have arrived on site and are being installed now. Design plans for the remaining ten plates are being finalized for fabrication. The prep work continues cutting access holes for the additional plates and building the platform, which will be complete by Sunday. 24/7 operations are expected to resume next week.
July 12, 2021
TDOT reports that a total of 16 plate locations that are critical to repair have been identified. These locations were identified after review of a 800+ page inspection report. Prep work to address these locations is underway with the first shipment of plates planned this week.
July 9, 2021
- The contractor is finishing phase 2 and beginning phase 3, repairing additional areas of concern from the weld inspections as analysis of the 800-page weld inspection report continues.
- Material is being sourced with fabrication to follow.
- Traffic volumes continue to increase on I-55, resulting in increased daily congestion and back-ups, particularly on Thursdays and Fridays, or when incidents occur.
July 6, 2021
- The contractor has completed the repair of the initial fracture.
- This week, the contractor is working on removal of temporary anchors and rigging, along with re-installation of miscellaneous bracing.
- Over 500 weld connections have been tested, and nine locations were identified that need additional steel plating. The structural design team is currently completing the design of those plates this week.
July 2, 2021
- Preliminary weld testing has found no failures but has identified locations that need additional reinforcing. TDOT has asked the contractor to begin assembling the needed materials for that purpose.
- Scheduling of the repairs is underway with a goal of having the bridge re-opened by the end of July.
July 1, 2021
The contractor is progressing with the phase 2 repairs by drilling, bolting, and torqueing the steel plates. De-tensioning of the tension rods could begin this weekend or early next week.
June 30, 2021
- All materials for Phase 2 Repairs are onsite and installation continues.
- The team of structural engineers continues analysis of the preliminary weld testing results.
June 28, 2021
Contractor has made significant progress with seven of the eight steel plates in place.
June 25, 2021
- Installation of 4 of the 8 permanent steel repair plates has been completed. Two photos added.
- Additional steel (remaining plates and miscellaneous pieces needed) expected to be delivered before July 3rd.
June 22, 2021
- Weld testing continues and is expected to be completed by the end of the week.
- The Structural Engineering team is analyzing the preliminary results of the weld testing already completed, determining if any additional repair work will be required.
- Post tensioning of the tie-girder is completed, allowing workers to start installing the permanent repair plating.
- Fabrication of the other steel plates needed for Phase 2 repairs continues.
June 21, 2021
- TDOT reports significant progress is being made to repairs on the I-40 Mississippi River Bridge.
- Removal of the fractured member of the tie beam is underway. (Two photos added.)
- The permanent repair plates have started to arrive. (One photo added.)
June 18, 2021
- Our leadership team gets an up close look at the I-40 Mississippi River bridge repairs as they meet with TDOT officials. Two photos added to gallery.
- Phase 2 repairs are progressing.
- Eastbound I-40/I-55 traffic in the West Memphis area is experiencing heavier congestion today, with several stalled vehicles contributing to the backups.
June 17, 2021
Phase 2 repairs continue as AFCO Steel begins fabrication of the steel plates to be installed for the permanent repair.
June 16, 2021
- Traffic flow from the I-40 West and I-55 merge point to the Mississippi River bridges continues to improve. Travel times recorded Monday and Tuesday show traffic moving at near normal levels.
- Federal Highway Administration has scheduled employee interviews as part of their review of our Bridge Inspection Process and Compliance.
June 15, 2021
Temporary weldment brackets are continuing to be installed on the bridge in preparation for the post tensioning phase of the final repair. Two photos added to gallery.
June 14, 2021
- Following recent traffic pattern changes by ARDOT and TDOT, less congestion and fewer back-ups have been observed on I-40/I-55.
- TDOT reports that Phase 2 repairs on the bridge are progressing well and in-depth inspections of the I-40 bridge continue with nothing of concern being found.
June 11, 2021
- TDOT reports that the contractor is making significant progress on the repairs.
- In-depth ultrasonic weld testing inspection of the I-40 bridge are continuing, and we added a photo to our gallery below.
- Traffic flow in the West Memphis area improved significantly compared to the previous two days.
- Weather permitting, TDOT will be performing work at the Crump interchange starting early Sunday morning with work expected to complete by the end of the day. Eastbound I-55 travelers should expect traffic congestion on Sunday. Once this work is complete, traffic flow from AR should improve even more.
June 10, 2021
Traffic in West Memphis was heavily congested today due to accidents, weather and TDOT roadwork at the Crump interchange near the I-55 MS River Bridge. TDOT has elected to not perform work at the Crump interchange on Friday, both minimizing congestion and allowing us to evaluate the impact of the traffic pattern changes implemented yesterday.
June 9, 2021
We implemented traffic modifications overnight on both I-55 and I-40. The plan is to reduce merging points along the I-40/I-55 corridor in West Memphis to improve traffic flow. The traffic pattern changes were developed in collaboration with TDOT, the Federal Highway Administration and the City of West Memphis.
News Release with all the info can be found here.
June 8, 2021
We’re working with TDOT, West Memphis, and Memphis Area Transit Authority to provide supplemental bus shuttle service between West Memphis and downtown Memphis to help commuters.
June 7, 2021
- Phase 2 repairs continued on schedule as needed materials started to arrive.
- ARDOT is expected to modify traffic flow this week in West Memphis on both Interstates 55 and 40 to help ease congestion.
- TDOT has created an animation to explain the repair process. You can view it here.
June 4, 2021
Preparatory work for the Phase 2 repair continues. A thorough inspection of the I-55 bridge is complete and TDOT finds that all previous inspection work done by ARDOT accurately reflects the bridge’s condition. It is safe and can carry the current traffic loads.
June 3, 2021
- Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg toured the I-40 MS River Bridge and gave remarks to the press in Memphis today. US DOT’s stream of the event can be found here. We’ve added 2 photos from this event.
June 2, 2021
- We worked with consultants to conduct an in-depth inspection of the I-40 MS River Bridge that will include Ultrasonic Testing on all the welds in the main tie girder at similar locations to where the fracture occurred and on key members of the overhead truss. This highly detailed inspection is expected to take several weeks to complete.
- U.S. Secretary Pete Buttigieg plans to visit Memphis on Thursday (tomorrow) to tour the I-40 MS River Bridge and speak with Arkansas and Tennessee officials.
- The contractor for the bridge repair, Kiewit, is preparing pricing for work and fabrication of materials needed for the phase two permanent repairs. A tentative opening date for the I-40 MS River Bridge can be set after the contractor’s repairs and bridge inspection results are reviewed.
June 1, 2021
- This week several teams are on-site inspecting, weld testing, and performing routine maintenance such as cleaning out drains while the bridge remains closed to traffic.
- TDOT reported that design plans for Phase 2 repairs were released to Kiewit Infrastructure Group on Saturday night, which the contractor will use to procure needed materials.
- HNTB began the I-40 MS River Bridge re-inspection.
May 28, 2021
- Kiewit Infrastructure Group worked to complete the platform extension today.
- There will not be a lot of activity on the bridge over the holiday weekend, but work continues behind the scenes finalizing the repair designs and sourcing steel components.
- Contract signed between ARDOT and HNTB for a re-inspection of the I-40 MS River Bridge; inspection to begin early next week
May 27, 2021
- We and TDOT have agreed to proceed with the repair option that will reopen the bridge to traffic sooner than the alternative option.
- The selected option will add additional steel plating adjacent to the damaged area, bypassing the fracture components, removing a small piece of the fractured steel, and leaving the bulk of the existing box section in place.
- The non-selected option would require removing the entire fractured steel box member (tie Girder) and replacing it with new components.
- TDOT announced that they intend to have a schedule for the bridge reopening to traffic next week.
May 25, 2021
- Kiewit Infrastructure Group completed Phase 1 repairs. This work was completed during 24-hour shifts where crews installed fabricated steel plates on each side of the fractured member to secure the bridge for Phase 2 repairs. (One photo added to gallery.)
- Phase 2 repairs will begin next, starting with cleaning up the worksite and extending the platform while the design plans for repairs are finalized.
May 24, 2021
Kiewit Infrastructure Group completed the drilling and bolting of 315 holes for the outside steel plate was completed the night before. Now the brackets can be installed and the drilling can begin on the 72 holes in the back plate. (Two photos added to gallery.)
May 23, 2021
- Kiewit Infrastructure Group continued working through Phase 1 of the bridge repairs. (Two photos added to gallery.)
- TDOT completed the field inspection of the I-55 MS River Bridge and continue reviewing drone footage. So far, there is nothing of concern.
May 22, 2021
- Kiewit Infrastructure Group completed installing a temporary platform to begin work on Phase 1 of the bridge repairs. It’s 100′ long, hanging from underneath the bridge which makes it 110′ feet in the air. (Photo added to gallery.)
- TDOT crews picked up the load of more than 33,000 pounds from Stupp Bridge Company and delivered it to the worksite.
May 20, 2021
We added to our FAQ to answers:
- Questions about the Inspector that was terminated and which bridges he was responsible for and also explanations on why we aren’t answering everything without a FOIA being submitted.
- Updated some of the answers to reflect new information we gained since we first answered them. These updates are clearly labeled and dated.
May 18, 2021
- TDOT held a press conference in the afternoon and both Arkansas Highway Commissioner Alec Farmer and Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson attended. You can view the video here.
- Repairs will be done in two phases. Phase 1 will consist of two 30 foot plates on either side of the fracture and will allow crews to safely engage in Phase 2 repairs. This phase is expected to be completed by the end of next week.
- Phase 2 repairs will consist of removing and replacing the steel member. This phase is expected to take several months and traffic cannot resume until it is completed.
- TDOT dedicated two teams and drones to review new and previous inspection footage and reports for the I-55 MS River Bridge, taking a very careful look in an overabundance of caution.
- Director Tudor and other ARDOT Employees answered questions from the legislature at a meeting of the Arkansas Highway Review and Advisory Sub-Committee in the afternoon. Media channels may have video of the event on their websites.
- News Release
May 17, 2021
- We held a press conference at 1:00 p.m. with media participating both in person (with COVID precautions in place) and remotely. You can view the video here.
- The referenced drone footage is available here.
- We have added the referenced photos to our gallery below.
- The Tennessee Department of Transportation selected Kiewit Corporation to perform the emergency repairs to the I-40 MS River Bridge.
- TDOT also established a webpage for updates on this situation.
- News Release & Contractor Selection News Release
May 14, 2021
- The Coast Guard lifted the waterway restriction underneath the bridge in the morning. Their news release about it can be found here.
- During the course of our investigation we have found earlier evidence of damage on the bridge. We are now investigating to see if the damage was noted in previous reports and what actions were taken.
- News Release & Press Briefing Notice
May 13, 2021
- In the afternoon both Departments of Transportation held a conference call with the Coast Guard to share our initial findings and the risk factor so they could evaluate resuming river-traffic.
- We and TDOT generated a computer model of the bridge and adjusted it to include the damages and current conditions. Now that the model closely matches the real situation it will be used to test future repairs.
- We and TDOT agreed that the first step is to complete temporary repairs designed to guarantee the safety of personnel and equipment required to be on the structure while putting the long term repairs into place.
- News Release
May 12, 2021
- We held a press conference at Noon with media participating both in person (with COVID precautions in place) and remotely. You can view the video here.
- We coordinated with TDOT to gather more information and examine what we had in order to make initial determinations as to the stability of the structure.
- News Release
May 11, 2021
- In the afternoon a contractor from Michael Baker International was performing a routine inspection of the Interstate 40 Mississippi River Bridge (also called the Hernando de Soto Bridge) discovered a mechanical fracture (engineering term) in a steel support beam that is crucial for the structure of the bridge.
- We immediately worked with law enforcement agencies to shut down all traffic across and under the bridge. The bridge remains closed while Tennessee’s Department of Transportation and we work together to analyze the damage and consider potential solutions.
- News Release
5 – 6. TDOT’s Photos of Kiewit Infrastructure Group’s platform. 7. A screen-capture of the crack found on drone video footage from the May 2019 inspection. 8. An example of the equipment called a ‘Snooper’ that allows crews to review the underside of bridges. 9. An inspector, safely secured during the inspection, measures the damage to the I-40 MS River Bridge. 10 – 11. Drone photo taken of the damage to the I-40 MS River Bridge. 12. ARDOT crews inspecting I-55 MS River Bridge on 12 May 2021. 13. ARDOT crews inspecting the damage to the I-40 MS River Bridge on 12 May 2021. 14. A photo of the damage of the I-40 MS River Bridge, taken 12 May, 2021. 15. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg talks with Arkansas Highway Commission Chairman Robert S. Moore Jr. during his tour if the I-40 Mississippi River Bridge. 16. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Arkansas Highway Commission Chairman Robert S. Moore Jr., Mayors from Memphis, West Memphis, and Tennesse Department of Transportation’s Commissioner answer questions from the press about the I-40 Mississippi River Bridge.
I-40 is the ‘new bridge’ between West Memphis and Memphis and the I-55 bridge is older, but now all that traffic is using I-55. Is it safe?
Update May 19, 2021: TDOT also inspected the bridge and found it to be safe and up to the task of the new traffic load.
We inspected the I-55 bridge thoroughly in August 2020 and then completed another visual inspection on May 12. Both inspections showed that the I-55 MS River Bridge is up to the task of handling the extra traffic. It’s smaller, so congestion is likely to be an issue as long as this is the primary route across the river to Memphis.
Do you have basic info about the I-40 and I-55 MS River Bridges?
The I-40 Bridge was built from 1966 to 1973. TDOT worked to retrofit the bridge for earthquakes between 2006 and 2018. The bridge is 9,431 feet in length and the two arch spans are 900 feet each. This bridge saw around 41,000 vehicles a day with 30% of that traffic being commercial trucks.
The I-55 Bridge was completed in 1949 and stretches across a mere 5,222 feet with the main span being 790 feet. This bridge, prior to the closure of I-40’s bridge, saw around 46,000 vehicles a day with 35% of that traffic being commercial trucks.
How long has the I-40 MS River Bridge been damaged?
We discovered drone footage showing that the crack was clearly visible in mid-2019.
What caused the damage?
The initial look at the damage suggests that it’s fatigue damage. Bridges are designed to allow for the expansion & contraction that happens with weather extremes and that causes wear and tear on the materials. Just like if you bend a paperclip back and forth over and over it’ll eventually snap – this fracture occurred due to fatigue of repeatedly flexing and absorbing tension.
Can you tell us more about this inspection in particular or just bridge inspections in general?
This bridge in specific was last inspected in September 2020 and gets inspected annually because it’s classified as ‘fracture critical’ due to how it’s built. These inspections are not fast affairs and a structure like this one can take a full week even with the weather cooperating. ARDOT has 27 teams of inspectors and we utilize outside consultants when needed. In 2020 we completed more than 10,000 bridge inspections. That’s more than 27 bridges inspected every day.
When was the I-40 Mississippi River Bridge last inspected and what were the results of that inspection?
We inspected this bridge in September 2020 and it was rated to be in fair condition, which is pretty good for a bridge built in 1973 that sees on average more than 41,000 vehicles a day with 31% of that traffic being commercial vehicles.
Given that the inspection team missed the damage on the I-40 MS River Bridge, are you checking other bridges that the team inspected previously?
We started our re-inspection process with the most recent ones inspected. This includes 9 Fracture Critical Bridges inspected last year and if the weather cooperates we’ll be finished re-inspecting these by the end of June.