U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has announced he will travel to Memphis on Thursday, June 3, to assess the disruption to traffic that the closure of the Hernando DeSoto-Interstate 40 bridge over the Mississippi River has caused.
Inspectors said they found a large crack in one of the bridge’s structural beams on May 12.
The crack has disrupted traffic throughout the Mid-South region and in the nation’s third busiest freight corridor. The bridge is also part of a network that includes five Class 1 railroads, the fifth largest inland port and FedEx’s distribution hub.
U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN-09), a senior member of the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said in a press release that he invited Buttigieg to Memphis.
Cohen said in the press release that he will use the crack in the bridge to push for the American Jobs Plan and for more government investments in the nation’s infrastructure.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan does not allow for either Shelby County or Memphis to use their $343 million in federal funds to repair the broken Memphis bridge. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee visited the bridge last month 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 $182 million to Shelby County and $161 million to Memphis, funds are prohibited from being spent on road or bridge infrastructure,” Lee said.
“The American Jobs Plan, touted as an infrastructure plan, would spend $2 trillion with a mere 5.6 percent dedicated to roads and bridges.”
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.
Updates on the I-40 bridge are available on the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) website.
TDOT officials said in their most recent update, on Friday, that the contractor was working to complete the platform extension for phase two repairs. TDOT officials are diverting all interstate traffic in the Memphis area to nearby I-55.
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