President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan doesn’t allow for either Shelby County or Memphis to use their $343 million in federal funds to repair the broken Memphis bridge. The Hernando de Soto bridge, or I-40 bridge, has been closed to traffic since May 12 due to a large crack in one of its structural beams. As The Tennessee Star reported, Governor Bill Lee visited the bridge on Tuesday to review repair plans. After his visit, Lee criticized Biden’s plan for being marketed as an infrastructure plan but not assisting in actual infrastructure.
“While Congress ponders the definition of infrastructure, we call upon the federal government to prioritize the safety of actual roads and bridges. Although the American Rescue Plan designated $182M to Shelby Co. & $161M to Memphis, funds are prohibited from being spent on road or bridge infrastructure,” said Lee. “The American Jobs Plan, touted as an infrastructure plan, would spend $2T w/ a mere 5.6 percent dedicated to roads & bridges.”
Although the American Rescue Plan designates $182M to Shelby Co. & $161M to Memphis, funds are prohibited from being spent on road or bridge infrastructure.
The American Jobs Plan, touted as an infrastructure plan, would spend $2T w/ a mere 5.6% dedicated to roads & bridges.
— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) May 18, 2021
The American Rescue Plan included around $350 billion in state, local, tribal, and territory infrastructure – but eligible uses only include water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure.
State Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) thanked Lee and Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson for visiting the I-40 bridge. He also noted that the American Rescue Plan failed to fund critical bridge repairs.
“Thank you to @GovBillLee & Gov. @AsaHutchinson for your visit to the Hernando DeSoto Bridge amid its recent and sudden closure,” said Kelsey. “While the federal government expressly prohibited American Rescue Plan funds to be used on such repairs, investing in infrastructure must be a priority.”
Updates on the I-40 bridge are available on the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) website. Wednesday, TDOT announced that the Kiewit Infrastructure Group would begin hauling equipment to the bridge for repairs. They also noted that repairs would occur in a two-phase repair plan. In phase one, fabricated steel plates will be installed on each side of the fractured beam to hold repair equipment. Phase two will concern removing and replacing the damaged beam.
TDOT announced that it will also review the bridge for other issues while it’s being repaired.
As of Lee’s announcement, the latest actions for the I-40 bridge concern executing the two-phase repair plan and diverting traffic safely.
No estimated timeline exists for when the bridge will reopen.
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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Hernando de Soto Bridge” by Chris Light. CC BY-SA 4.0.