Bridge crack causes closure of part of lower Mississippi River

The US Coast Guard has closed a portion of the Mississippi River near the I-40 Hernando DeSoto Bridge in Memphis, Tennessee after a significant crack was discovered near the bridge’s centre span.

The USCG said that the river was closed to all vessel traffic between mile marker 736 and mile marker 737.

More than 700 barges were reported as delayed on the lower Mississippi River on Thursday after a structural crack in the Hernando de Soto Bridge prompted the U.S. Coast Guard to halt vessel traffic on a portion of the crucial trade artery.

The impact of any prolonged delay would be significant. Barges loaded along the upper Mississippi, Ohio, Illinois or Missouri rivers have to pass underneath the Hernando DeSoto Bridge on their way to Gulf of Mexico export facilities near New Orleans.

The crack was discovered during a routine inspection of the bridge by the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ADoT), which immediately shut the bridge to road traffic. It said that it was a “significant crack in a steel support beam that is crucial for the structure of the bridge.”

The USCG said that any reopening of the river would be dependent on inspection results by the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

TDoT officials held a press event on Wednesday, stating that the inspection was still underway, and could take two weeks to complete.

Ryan Rhodes, Captain of the Port of Memphis, said that “the Coast Guard is currently working with ADoT, TDoT and river industry stakeholders on this developing situation. Based on the current information available, we have closed a portion of the Lower Mississippi River out of an abundance of caution. The captain of the port is monitoring the situation and will continue to ensure the safety of the maritime environment and surrounding community.”