Major traffic pattern changes in West Memphis due to I-40 bridge detours

June 11, 2021

Tyson Fisher

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The Arkansas Department of Transportation is making some changes to traffic patterns near West Memphis as traffic diverting away from the I-40 bridge is causing major congestion problems on the Interstate 55 Mississippi River Bridge.

On June 8, ARDOT, along with the city of West Memphis, came up with a solution for a congestion problem on the I-55 bridge. After the I-40 bridge was shut down for emergency repairs, motorists have been redirected to the I-55 bridge. Consequently, the unusually high traffic on that bridge is causing problems.

Beginning Wednesday, June 9, the following traffic patterns are in place until further notice:

  • I-55 southbound will be reduced to a single outside lane just before the western I-40/I-55 Interchange.
  • I-40 eastbound already narrows to a single lane at the I-40/I-55 interchange. Exit ramps at 7th Street and Ingram Blvd. will be closed to I-40 traffic.
  • I-40 traffic will continue in the inside lane and I-55 traffic will continue in the outside lane through Ingram Blvd. The middle lane will be closed to separate eastbound traffic between the western and eastern I-40/I-55 Interchanges.
  • East of Ingram Blvd. eastbound traffic will transition into two adjacent lanes.
  • The I-40/I-55 on-ramp at Ingram Blvd. will be closed.

According to a news release, ARDOT expects the changes will reduce merging points which is anticipated to reduce conflicts and improve traffic flow.

Crews working on the I-40 bridge found a significant fracture on the bridge last month.

On May 11, ARDOT announced that it will be shutting down the bridge for emergency repairs. Since then, motorists traveling on I-40 eastbound in Arkansas are being rerouted to Exit 5 to the I-55 bridge. Those traveling westbound on the Tennessee side of I-40 should take the I-55 bridge as well. After that, take Exit 4 to access I-40 westbound.

According to the Arkansas Trucking Association, the previous 8-minute drive is now averaging 84 minutes, costing the industry $2.4 million each day the bridge is closed. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the once 15-minute travel times on Interstate 55 have turned into commutes as long as 75 minutes as of Monday, May 17.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation will be making repairs on the I-40 bridge in two phases:

  • Phase I: Addition of two 30-foot steel plates (18,000 pounds each) on either side of the fracture to strengthen the bridge for contractors and equipment to safely work on Phase II repairs.
  • Phase II: Cut out and replace the damaged part and inspect the bridge for any additional concerns that need to be addressed before traffic returns to the bridge.

Currently, TDOT is on schedule with Phase II. However, it can take several months to complete repairs and reopen the bridge. For more information about progress on the I-40 bridge, visit a website dedicated to the issue here. LL

 

Damage found on I-40 bridge. Photo courtesy Arkansas DOT
On May 11, the Arkansas DOT announced that it was shutting down the bridge for emergency repairs. Photo courtesy ARDOT.

 

More I-40 bridge coverage:

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Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.