The US Coast Guard has lifted its marine traffic restrictions on a section of the lower Mississippi River that was closed on Tuesday May 11th when a large crack was discovered on a structural beam supporting the Hernando DeSoto Bridge. The bridge carries Interstate-40 vehicle traffic over the river from Memphis, Tennessee, to West Memphis, Arkansas.
Towboats and barges have been cleared to resume operations on what is one of the busiest internal water trade routes in the US.
The waterway was closed off at mile markers 736 to 737, leading by Friday morning to 62 vessels and 1,058 barges being stuck in a queue. The congestion was expected to be cleared within 36 to 48 hours.
The USCG lifted its restrictions following a more thorough inspection to assess the full extent of the bridge damage. USCG Captain Ryan Rhodes, Captain of the Port of Memphis, said that, “based on information provided to us by the Tennessee Department of Transportation, the Coast Guard has determined that transit under the I-40 bridge is safe for maritime traffic”.
The closure disrupted shipments of dry and wet goods, including grains and oil products, heading for the major export facilities bordering the Gulf of Mexico.