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Crack in Memphis Bridge Adds to Shippers’ Woes

A major fracture was discovered in the Hernando de Soto Bridge’s steel support structure during a routine inspection of the Memphis bridge on May 11. Thought to be a result of years of stress to the bridge which originally opened in 1973, the crack has resulted in the bridge’s indefinite closure as investigators determine the best course of action for repairing it.

The closure of the Hernando de Soto Bridge has placed additional strain on the already struggling trucking industry which had leveraged the bridge as a main transportation artery until now. Over 40,000 vehicles passed over this bridge daily, with 25% of that traffic coming from commercial trucks. This shutdown is particularly disruptive to the local trucking industry as Memphis is home to some major commercial carrier hubs.

The bridge’s current state of disrepair is not just a problem only for truckers and commuters going over the bridge but also for the traffic flowing underneath it.

Cracked Bridge Halts Mississippi River Traffic

In the aftermath of the bridge’s closure, Mississippi River travel was halted during the initial inspection period. Traffic under the bridge was reopened after two days had gone by and over 1,000 barges stacked up, waiting to pass under it. This bottleneck caused disruptions in shipments of grain, various dry cargo, as well as fuel oil.

While traffic under the bridge has resumed, much uncertainty remains regarding the fate of the bridge itself and the impact repair operations may have on future Mississippi River transportation. The inspection and analysis process could take months as engineers assess the bridge, determining the safest and most cost-effective path forward.

However, once repair work begins in earnest, there is no telling how severely Mississippi River traffic might be impacted or for how long.

Potentially Catastrophic Memphis Bridge Fracture Only a Symptom of Diseased US Infrastructure

It should come as no shock by now to hear that the United States’ infrastructure is in need of some major repairs. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers’ most recent infrastructure report, our nation scores a C-minus for its current state of infrastructure safety and effectiveness.

The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) published their 2020 report which shows more than a third (37 percent) of all US bridges are either in need of major repair work or should be replaced entirely. This figure, while alarming, is hardly a surprise in the face of the fact that nearly half of the country’s 617,000 bridges are over 50 years old. And the US roadways are faring no better with over 40 percent of them being past due for major repair work.

This reality has led to President Biden’s proposal of a $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, which Republicans countered with a $568 billion plan of their own. Biden has been in talks with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to get started on repairing 20,000 miles of roadways and 10,000 bridges nationwide, but progress is yet to be seen as they debate the specifics.

Regardless of whose plan wins out in the end, the US infrastructure’s road ahead is long and full of potholes. ClearFreight has dedicated experts specifically focused on domestic transportation and while we cannot predict when or where there will be disruption, we can help you navigate around any obstacles that present themselves. Contact ClearFreight today to learn how we can support your supply chain and pave the way to a smoother future.

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