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Police activity shut down I-55 bridge Wednesday morning; shows need to quickly reopen I-40 bridge

The incident Wednesday showed how it can affect traffic to only have one way over the Mississippi River in this area.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The push continues to get the I-40 bridge reopened after an incident Wednesday showed how it can affect traffic to only have one way over the Mississippi River in this area.

Memphis Police were forced to shut down the I-55 bridge after they said a woman threatened to jump off. She was detained safely after a short time.

Some said this shows how incidents like this, the recent truck fire on I-55, or crashes - with only one bridge - can bring traffic to a standstill, affecting the supply chain as well as drivers in the Mid-South. 

Meanwhile, below is the latest update on the I-40 Hernando de Soto bridge repairs from TDOT: 

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg plans to visit Memphis on Thursday to tour the bridge and speak with Tennessee and Arkansas officials. 

Today, the contractor is preparing pricing for work and fabrication of materials needed for the phase two permanent repairs. Concurrently, ArDOT is working with consultants to conduct an in-depth inspection of the bridge. This work includes Ultrasonic Testing (UT) on all the welds on the main tie girder at similar locations to where the fracture occurred and on key members of the overhead truss. This incredibly detailed inspection is expected to take several weeks to complete.

Upon reviewing the contractor's schedule of repairs and the results of the bridge inspection work, a tentative opening date can be set. We understand the desire for a projected opening date but must ensure all information is vetted before doing so. Our consistent message, above all, is the safety of the public is paramount, and the priorities are to 1) open the river traffic, 2) open bridge traffic, and 3) look at the bridge for long-term issues related to the original failure.

We continue to collect data and study ways to alleviate congestion and advance flow as all interstate traffic in the Memphis area is being diverted to I-55.

*Average Peak Travel Times Recorded Last Week*

  • 9 am – 6 pm Southbound section (from the I-55/I-40 interchange in Arkansas to just across the I-55 River Bridge) between 65 to 55 minutes
  • 12 pm – 5 pm Northbound section (between the interchange of I-55 with U.S. 61 and the Crump Interchange just before the I-55 River Crossing) between 29 and 25 minutes

TDOT HELP trucks are stationed on both sides of the I-55 bridge to respond quickly to any incidents and keep lanes open. Below are direct links to the TDOT SmartWay cameras posted at the east and west approaches of I-55 for live traffic information.

West Approach to I-55 River Crossing

East Approach to the I-55 River Crossing

Inspectors are still reviewing hours of drone video and numerous pictures of the I-55 bridge. There continues to be no concern from the inspectors. We will release the final report when available. 

We continue to hold daily meetings with ARDOT, our consultants, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Memphis Police Department, and FHWA to develop and expedite the repair project while managing traffic along the alternate routes.