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Gov. Hutchinson, Lee meet to discuss damaged I-40 bridge

All traffic has been diverted from the bridge since a fractured beam was discovered last week.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson joined Tennessee Governor Bill Lee to discuss the status of the damaged I-40 bridge, also called the Hernando de Soto Bridge, between the two states. 

Last week, an Arkansas bridge inspector noticed a fractured beam on the I-40 bridge over the Mississippi River. All traffic was diverted from the bridge and has not returned since. 

The Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) director announced an employee missed the damage in 2019. The employee has been fired.  

ARDOT released footage from the 2019 inspection.

Officials from both states say it could take months to fix the damage. 

Both states have selected a contractor to repair the fracture. 

Traffic will remain detoured to cross the Mississippi River either via I-55 or Highway 49 bridges until crews can make repairs. Barge traffic has been cleared to travel under the bridge. 

In Kentucky, 35-foot steel beams are being made that will be put on each side of the fractured beam. Governor Hutchinson says safety is their top priority.

"This is a critical link for us. We want to get it right," Hutchinson said. "We want to get it back in operation. It certainly illustrates the importance of our infrastructure in the United States, the investment in it that’s needed, and our mutual commitment."

ARDOT is working closely with the Arkansas Trucking Association. President, Shannon Newton says it costs the trucking industry $2.4 million dollars each day the bridge is closed. She says what used to take eight minutes is now an 84-minute drive.  

“If you are unable to avoid that part of the state, the costs are in the form of congestion but if you do have a route that would allow you to choose a different route and allow you to go over a different bridge. Then you have those out of route miles, and you are consuming fuel and time in order to take a different route,” she said.  

Chief operating officer at ABF Freight, Seth Runser says they are trying to dispatch their drivers away from peak driving hours

“We haven’t seen too many major delays when we time it right," he said. "We have a lot of east to west and west to east moving from Memphis to Little Rock, that’s where we have some of our road domiciles but right now, we’ve been routing that way and we’ve been pretty effective overall." 

An inspection of the I-55 bridge has begun now that it has become the states' primary Mississippi River crossing. 

RELATED: Drone footage from 2019 reveals I-40 bridge damage, officials confirm

RELATED: Barges & boats are moving again beneath the I-40 Hernando de Soto bridge in Memphis