Transportation secretary to visit closed interstate bridge

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will visit the Interstate 40 bridge connecting Tennessee and Arkansas that’s been indefinitely closed after a crack was found in one of its steel beams.

The U.S. Department of Transportation on Friday announced that Buttigieg will visit Memphis on Thursday to see the bridge spanning the Mississippi River.

The bridge visit comes as President Biden is pushing for a major infrastructure package, while Republican senators want a more modest investment in roads, highways and other traditional public works projects.

The I-40 bridge connecting Memphis and the Arkansas city of West Memphis was shut down May 11 after inspectors found a crack in one of two 900-foot (275-meter) horizontal steel beams that are critical for the bridge’s structural integrity.

Officials have said the bridge could be closed for months. The first phase of repairs to the bridge were completed this week, and Tennessee transportation officials said they hope to release a schedule next week for the bridge’s reopening.

An Arkansas inspector was fired last week for missing the crack in the bridge’s 2019 and 2020 inspections. Photos taken by a Mississippi River kayaker in 2016 appear to show the fracture, raising questions about how early it first appeared.

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