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Large crack found in Memphis bridge causes shutdown, backlog of river traffic

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Posted at 10:20 PM, May 13, 2021

Thousands of vehicles were forced to detour and shipping on a section of the Mississippi River was shut down after a crack was found in the span of the I-40 bridge linking Tennessee and Arkansas this week.

Crews inspecting the 1.8-mile I-40 Hernando DeSoto Bridge discovered the crack in the bottom side of a truss Tuesday.

The six-lane bridge was shut down immediately, and crews are investigating the crack's extent further. TDOTD said Wednesday afternoon that the inspection was still underway and could take a couple weeks to complete. It's unclear how long repairs will take; however, an official said Wednesday that they could take months.

Barge traffic on the Mississippi north of Baton Rouge was slow Thursday as barges sat in the traffic jam a couple hundred miles north.

WAFB spoke to the head of the Port of Baton Rouge Jay Hardman, who says he hopes it won't take long for traffic to start flowing again, adding the economic impact could be billions if the stoppage lasts more than two weeks.

Hardman explained that around 500 million tons of cargo moves just through the lower Mississippi each year.

"You can start translating and it eventually starts affecting everybody at home to have the Mississippi River shut down."

The U.S. Coast Guard is assisting TDOT with the closure, and said Thursday night that there were 52 vessels with a total of 901 barges in queue.

Read more from WAFB.

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