U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, said in a Sunday (May 16) interview the I-40 Memphis bridge situation is a “national concern.” He also weighed in on the ouster of Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, from House GOP leadership and said he plans to run for re-election in 2022.
This week, the bridge between West Memphis and Memphis was closed after a major fracture was found in a supporting beam. While it is too soon to tell how the bridge may be repaired or if a new structure will be needed, Crawford said he and other Arkansas officials have been in communication with federal officials regarding the seriousness of the situation.
“There’s some question about the global integrity of this structure. So, we’re going to have to start having a conversation about the costs associated with a new bridge, and then, are we in a position now with the amount of the volume of traffic that traverses the Mississippi River at that point, do we need to think about a third bridge? And, so this is a major national concern because of the significance of this logistics hub.”
Crawford said he doesn’t know at this point how long the bridge may be closed. Alternative routes are bound to take a toll on less-trafficked areas that weren’t built for the volume. It is also impacting commerce by causing major re-routes of trucking and barge traffic to move consumer goods.
“We don’t know what to expect in terms of duration,” he said. “We also know that when we get off on those secondary roads and go through smaller towns and smaller roads, that it creates congestion problems that you know, cities, for example, like Helena-West Helena aren’t equipped to deal with. Then, we’re rerouting on other roads and it’s causing delays, not to mention potential safety issues. We don’t know what the duration will be.”
The 1st District Congressman said the bridge condition has added to the current debate in Washington for an infrastructure measure. President Biden and Congressional Democrats are seeking a $2 trillion infrastructure plan, but it has been met with resistance for being too expensive and encompassing of policy goals beyond projects. Republicans have proposed a smaller $568 billion infrastructure proposal.
Despite the D.C. gridlock, Crawford said he does think Congress will pass an infrastructure bill this year.
“I think we’ll do it. I don’t think the House package will pass muster. I think we’re going to have a hard time, the Democrats will have a hard time getting that across the floor. The good news is, the Senate is teeing up what looks to be a bipartisan effort that we’ll probably consider in the House, and so, I’m encouraged by that,” he said. “However, I don’t feel good about what I just heard from President Biden, suggesting he may go it alone on infrastructure investment, which does not bode well for the country, given the extreme view he has on what constitutes infrastructure.”
Crawford supported the removal of Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming from House GOP leadership this week. He said the former No. 3 leader in the House wasn’t on the same page as the majority view.
“When you serve in leadership, you really have to sacrifice a lot of your own personal autonomy. And that is to say, a rank-and-file member, can say and do an awful lot of things because they’re individual members but when your responsibility. The Conference Chair, I would remind folks, it is their primary responsibility to not only shape the message, to help deliver the message, and to help members access the media to deliver that message. And, in the course of this first few months of this year, that wasn’t happening,” he said.
Crawford said he “absolutely” plans to run for re-election in 2022.
“I’m running through the tape as I always do. There’s an awful lot going on. You know, the first district is a, it’s a great place. I love it. I love representing the citizens of the 1st District. And, you know, if you get the opportunity, one of these days, you ought to just get in the truck with me and drive around, because if you like to see a variety of scenery and a difference in culture from the Southeast part of the state, all the way up into the Ozarks, you can do it all in a day if you drive fast enough, you’ve got to be careful, but there’s an awful lot to see and do and some great people that I have the honor and privilege of representing,” he said.
Watch Rep. Crawford’s full interview in the video below.