Anyone working with road transportation in the Southeast regions of the United States is most likely familiar with the recent news regarding I-40. The bridge on interstate I-40 in Tennessee going across the Mississippi river has been closed for repair due to a massive crack in a support beam. Officials have deemed the beam to be crucial for the support and safety of the bridge, and until it is fully prepared, any transportation moving across the bridge posses a threat to the safety of those driving on the road or living in surrounding areas.
While the bridge closure has been an inconvenience to everyone, it has been especially detrimental to the efficiency of operations at the FedEx headquarters which is located in central Memphis. Their fleet of trucks are traveling across the bridge on I-40 every day, and the closure which happened in mid-May 2021 has slowed down domestic shipments significantly.
Although cracks that separate entire support beams in bridges are statistically speaking rather rare, it doesn’t come as a surprise given the age of the bridge. President Joe Biden is proposing a $1.7 trillion bill that would go towards infrastructure investment and repair (which would involve roads, highways, bridges, and other public works projects.)
Despite the rarity of the crack in the bridge, it is estimated by leading transportation and infrastructure specialists that 45,000 bridges in the United States are currently in poor condition, and repair of all bridges alone would cost upwards of $1 trillion.
I-40 is an integral highway for transportation. It spans from California to North Carolina and is a key route for many transportation vehicles to cross the river. An estimated 50,000 vehicles cross the bridge every single day. Roughly 1 in 4 of those are commercial transportation vehicles. While the road is closed, all freight is being routed over Interstate 55.
Officials have not specified when repairs will be finished, but the construction which started in mid-May 2021 is expected to be done by July of this year.
The implications of the shut down have hit domestic truckers hard. The closed bridge poses a major bottleneck in road transportation around the Memphis area, and road carriers are being forced to increase their transit time estimates for customers due to the slowdown. The construction project is making trips longer and more expensive for everyone involved.
The Tennessee Trucking Association estimated that the closure is costing the industry around $2.4 million per day. Truckers are shifting their shipping schedules to avoid daytime congestion on alternate routes, and some are taking shipments completely out of route to steer clear of traffic caused due to the closure.