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  • Sara Doan, Northeast Arkansas News

Residents voice opinions regarding a third bridge option connecting Arkansas to Tennessee

WEST MEMPHIS, Ark It’s been over three weeks since the I-40 bridge was shut down after AR-DOT crews discovered a crack in the structure.

Now, residents are getting frustrated, and the topic of another bridge has come up.

KJNB Northeast Arkansas News speaks with some residents to hear what they have to say.

Residents on both the Arkansas and Tennessee side of the Mississippi River say there should be a third bridge option.

They’re frustrated with the additional cars adding more congestion in an already heavily trafficked area.

“It has been a whole lot more traffic trying to get out of West Memphis. [It] normally takes five to ten minutes. It now takes twenty to 30 minutes if not 40 to 50 minutes to try to get out of West Memphis or coming back,” says Marion resident Travis Saunders.

After the scary discovery on the Hernando DeSoto Bridge, cars were re-routed to the older I-55 bridge.

Memphian Jessica Shipp spoke with KJNB via zoom.

She frequents the drive as she has loved ones in the Natural State, including her boyfriend.

Since the bridge has been closed, she’s re-thinking the frequent trips.

“I have to factor in extra time if I am going to make trips to visit friends or anyone pretty much on the other side of the Mississippi River. Also, it has put a decision on if I am going to travel if I do go visit anyone, how does that work, simply because the traffic is just overwhelming,” says the Volunteer State resident.

Saunders works in Memphis and Marion.

He stays in communication with friends on both sides of the river before he travels.

“Calling people saying ‘hey, [have] you been over the bridge yet? Yeah, I’ve been over it. It’s died down.’ Okay, let me gonna go ahead and go over now while it’s died now,” the salon employee says. “Folks calling me ‘hey, is it backed up right now? No, it’s died down, come on while you can.’”

A study by T-DOT revealed a new bridge could cost between three hundred to over four hundred million dollars.

However, if one of the two bridges were destroyed, the economic impact would cost the region billions of dollars, according to the study.

Shipp cites the economic impact saying there needs to be another option.

While Saunders points out the extra travel one would have to go to get across the Mississippi River.

“We definitely need a third option. Something that can handle the heavy loads because we have these big rig trucks as well as everyday people like myself,” Shipp said. “It’s affecting commerce and getting people to and from their jobs.”

“Most definitely in need because the only other ways are going all the way down through Arkansas in through Helena, or through Missouri and cutting all the way up. That’s just out of the way- it’s hours out of the way,” says Saunders.

Step one of repairs is complete, but AR-DOT does not anticipate the material needed for the bridge to arrive until late June.

The department hopes the beams will be on the bridge by late July, but no reopening date is known.

But for now, Shipp and Saunders say they hope it’s soon.

“I’m looking forward to the bridge officially being fixed,” says Shipp.

“We hope it gets finished quite soon because it’s impacting people’s lives,” he says sounding, frustrated.

The Arkansas Department of Transportation has fired the employee who failed to report the crack in the I-40 bridge.

New questions regarding the stability of the over 65-year-old I-55 bridge are being raised as it is holding thousands of new cars each day.

“With all the traffic being diverted to the I-55 bridge, it’s only a matter of time before there might be an issue with that bridge,” says Saunders.


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