Arkansas Trucking Association President Shannon Newton said short-term and long-term solutions are being discussed to resolve the transportation challenges presented by the closure of the damaged I-40 Mississippi River bridge to Memphis.
During a meeting with federal officials on Thursday (May 20), Newton said there is no time frame for reopening of the Hernando de Soto bridge, which was closed over a week ago after a massive fracture was discovered on one of the steel beams supporting the structure.
When asked when the bridge might reopen, she said, “I feel confident in the answer of months.”
Trucking officials estimate closure of the bridge is costing the industry at least $2.4 million per day.
“In any business, time is money. Whether you’re talking about idle equipment, burning fuel, or an idle driver, all of those things cost the industry money,” Newton said.
She noted the bridge was roughly an eight-minute corridor drive, but with the re-routing taking place due to its closure, it now takes approximately 84 minutes or more to travel an alternative route. Newton said the I-40 corridor is a major transportation route from California to the Carolinas.
On Thursday when Newton met with Federal Highway Administration executives, she said she was concerned about the impact the closure is having on the city of West Memphis.
“The town of West Memphis is currently gridlocked with traffic using its city streets to try to get across the river,” Newton said. “And so, what can be done to alleviate the congestion and the immobility of the area right now? Are there things that federal highways can either send extra money and/or make some allowances or exceptions to create. Can we drive on the shoulder? Or do we need to go from two lanes to one lane in this particular situation? Is there anything that we can do to increase capacity as vehicles are trying to use that I-55 bridge?”
You can watch Newton’s full interview in the video below.