FRACTURE: Screenshot of drone video by Commercial Appeal of damage to a 900-foot box beam on the closed I-40 bridge.

The Commercial Appeal is reporting on revived talk about building a third Mississippi River bridge at Memphis.

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A 15-year-old study put the cost of a new link north of Mud Island around a half-billion dollars. It would undoubtedly be more today, but the closed 50-year-old I-40 bridge and an overburdened 70-year-old I-55 bridge loaded with semis heading to and from the FedEx hub in Memphis are spurring the talk.

A heckuva infrastructure project for sure. The talk is cheapened somewhat by the long timeline for such a project — nailing down the money, design, environmental review, right of way acquisition and construction of bridge and connecting freeways. (Memphis has had experience with controversies over interstate routes through the city.) And don’t forget cost overruns (about 100 percent for the Arkansas Department of Transportation’s big concrete I-30 ditch through Little Rock.)

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Meanwhile, Arkansas and Tennesse highway officials seem to think a repair of the fractured box beam can be done with additional steel plates, not replacement of the entire 900-foot beam. That could shorten the repair time. ARDOT announced:

  • We and TDOT have agreed to proceed with the repair option that will reopen the bridge to traffic sooner than the alternative option.
    • The selected option will add additional steel plating adjacent to the damaged area, bypassing the fracture components, removing a small piece of the fractured steel, and leaving the bulk of the existing box section in place.
    • The non-selected option would require removing the entire fractured steel box member (tie Girder) and replacing it with new components.
  • TDOT announced that they intend to have a schedule for the bridge reopening to traffic next week.