A bridge spanning the Mississippi River from Tennessee on one side to Arkansas on the other has been closed after a significant crack was discovered during a routine inspection by the Arkansas Department of Transportation. The fracture is in a steel support beam near the centre span of the Interstate 40 Mississippi River Bridge. Paul Degges, Chief Engineer for the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), said the repair could take months.
The Coast Guard issued a waterway restriction to all vessel traffic on the river in the area and said reopening of the river is dependent on the results of an inspection by TDOT. As of Thursday morning, there were 44 vessels with a total of 709 barges in a queue to pass under the bridge.
Until the inspection team can determine if the bridge can hold its own weight as well as the weight of a construction crew, barge traffic will not resume, said Degges. That process could take days to complete.
The Mississippi River is a key waterway in the shipment of US agricultural exports. According to Bloomberg, a sustained outage of the river could disrupt shipments of grain, corn and soy out of the Gulf of Mexico.