MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The problems with the Hernando Desoto Bridge are not the first of their kind. Ten years ago, a similar crack happened along another major bridge, this one connecting Louisville, Kentucky and southern Indiana.
Local officials don’t yet know when our bridge may be back open. But in Louisville, it took five months to make the repairs.
“It took a lot of patience, and unfortunately, that’s what it’s going to take is time to make sure you guys can get everything moving safely like you need to,” said Matt Owen, the president of the Jefferson City Council in Indiana.
They are two massive structures with similar appearances, similar construction and a similar problem: the Hernando Desoto Bridge over the Mississippi River connecting Memphis to Arkansas and the Sherman Minton Bridge over the Ohio River.
“The Sherman Minton Bridge was undergoing an inspection and that crosses the Ohio River from New Albany, Indiana into Louisville, Kentucky,” said Andy Crouch, city engineer for Jefferson, Indiana.
Several cracks were discovered in the bridge in 2011, shutting it down so crews could reinforce the structure.
“IN-Dot, the Indiana Department of Transportation, shut the bridge down at just about a moment’s notice once they discovered two cracks,” Crouch said.
Transportation investigators called the cracks incredibly serious and potentially catastrophic. At the time, they gave a warning to other states with similar bridges.
“We are asking our divisions and states to take proactive action and to go out and now make sure they are looking at more bridges in detail,” an investigator said.
Ten years later, Owen recalled what the shutdown was like.
“The I-65 bridge between our communities had to shut down for an extended period and it did cause disruption,” Owen said.
The disruption caused a traffic nightmare for drivers and slowed the flow of dollars coming into neighboring communities.
“Local officials on both sides of the river had to kind of bring their arms around business and our tourism to make sure we could insulate our small business from as much as that disruption that we could,” Owen said.