Vital Memphis bridge shut down after officials find structural crack

Transportation officials discovered a crack Tuesday in a major artery in American infrastructure, meaning it could be closed for months.

The Hernando de Soto Bridge on Interstate 40 in Memphis, Tennessee, was entirely shutdown Tuesday and will be closed for emergency repairs, according to a news release from the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT).

Tennessee shares responsibility for the bridge with the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT), who discovered the crack during a routine inspection and immediately shut down the bridge, the release said.

“For the motoring public’s safety, the bridge will be entirely shut down while crews investigate the crack’s extent further and then repair the problem, which could take some time,” the TDOT release read.

Detours are in place in Tennessee and Arkansas with traffic being rerouted in both directions to Interstate 55 as an alternate route across the river. It is unknown how long the bridge will be closed. Authorities have also shut down river traffic until further notice.

With boat traffic closed, there are at least 24 vessels with a total of 346 barges waiting to travel the lower Mississippi River in either direction, according to Lt. Mark Pipkin of United States Coast Guard Sector Lower Mississippi River.

More than 50,000 vehicles drive over the bridge each day, according to CNN affiliate WHBQ-TV. TDOT is responsible for repairs and maintenance of the bridge, while ArDOT is responsible for inspections, which happen every two years, the affiliate reported.

According to CNN affiliate WMC-TV, the bridge is “a vital piece of America’s infrastructure for moving traffic and freight around the country.”

It took six years to build the bridge, WMC states, and the governors of Tennessee and Arkansas cut the ribbon in August 1973.