MEMPHIS, Tenn. – U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the closure of the Interstate 40 bridge connecting Arkansas and Tennessee has been “challenging” and “costly” but said safety is “at the heart” of the response.
“Safety is at the heart of what’s happened at the De Soto bridge,” Buttigieg said during the discussion at FedEx. “ I know that that protracted closure has been frustrating, it has been difficult, it has been challenging, and it has been costly.”
Buttigieg said the closure of the Hernando De Soto bridge is an issue for tens of thousands of drivers, customers and those who need emergency services.
The transportation secretary said it’s important the connection is quickly restored.
Buttigieg heard from a small family business and FedEx about how the bridge closure is impacting business.
The transportation secretary noted some hospital workers had their hours cut due to less people visiting the hospital and truckers losing millions each day.
According to Buttigieg, the delay on Interstate 55 has decreased from 47 minutes to 27 minutes.
The transportation secretary said 45,000 bridges are in poor condition.
West Memphis Mayor Marco McClendon said his city is the home of America’s crossroads with Interstates 40 and 55 intersect.
McClendon says an infrastructure plan has to be important.
According to Tennessee Transportation Commissioner Clay Bright, the bridge repair is in phase two and they expect the delivery of the parts for the permanent fix is expected to happen in late June.
Bright said the preparation work will likely start this week.
The Tennessee Transportation Commissioner said crews are working on the repair 24 hours a day, even if they’re not seen on the bridge.
Bright noted all previous ARDOT reports on the Interstate 55 bridge are accurate and it is a “stout bridge.”
Robert Moore, chairman of the Arkansas Highway Commission said he’s thankful the disaster was averted before catastrophe occurred.
Buttigieg said the country has been coasting off infrastructure plans made 20 years ago, and they were great in the 20th Century.