MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The closure of a major bridge across the Mississippi River in Memphis comes as President Joe Biden pushes his infrastructure plan, which he vows will improve roads, railways and bridges.
Traffic on and below the Hernando DeSoto bridge was halted Tuesday as crews figure out how to repair a break in the steel structure.
“This bridge will get fixed. It won’t wait for money,” said Paul Degges, Chief Engineer with Tennessee Department of Transportation.
The repair is now gaining national attention as Biden’s administration pushes a multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure bill that would revamp dilapidated roads and bridges, among other programs.
Thursday, U.S. Transpiration Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the cracked bridge is exactly why the bill is vital, and that “we can’t afford to do nothing.” It’s something he’s stressed before.
“This plan would improve more than 20,000 miles of roads and 10,000 bridges,” Buttiegieg said.
Last week, the U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh visited Memphis to drum up support for the bill, but couldn’t promise what roads and bridges in the Mid-South would get treatment.
“There’s no specific projects yet,” Walsh said last week. “Those projects are an investment. A dollar investment. This bill still has to go through Congress and the United States Senate.”
And that’s where it gets tricky, since some Republicans don’t like the bill and how it raises the corporate tax rate. We asked some of our local lawmakers where they stand.
Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn stated, “There are select roads across the country, like the I-40 bridge, that do need maintenance.”… but the bill “is a decades old list of social programs that do not address our long term infrastructure needs.”
Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen of Memphis said, “It’s fortunate the routine inspection averted a potential disaster”… and he looks forward to working with “colleagues in Arkansas and Tennessee to ensure that provisions to repair and improve the I-40 bridge are included” in Biden’s plan.
It’s possible this bridge could qualify for funding under Biden’s plan, but as of now we do not know what the metrics will be.