Study shows bridge closure would have ‘significant economic impact’
Preliminary TDOT numbers suggest potential 20 percent loss
The Tennessee Department of Transportation has drafted a revised economic impact statement for the Interstate 55 and Crump Boulevard intersection project. Plans were announced to close the Interstate at the Memphis and Arkansas Bridge for construction and the TDOT held a pair of meetings in West Memphis. A uniform outcry emerged from the meetings with the sentiment that consideration over the impact of the project on Eastern Arkansas had never been studied.
State Senator Keith Ingram has seen the new draft and said there is hope that the new study will force TDOT to give fresh considerations to more options, other plans that would prevent the project from crippling Crittenden County economy with the closure of Interstate 55. TDOT hired consultants to weigh the impact west of the river in a Supplemental Environmental Impact Study (SEIS).
“I’ve seen an early draft of the study,” said Ingram. “It shows that local truck, cartage between Crittenden County and Memphis, is 7,000 trucks per day. There could be as high as a 20 percent loss because of time constraints if they shut the bridge. That’s a significant economic impact.”
Trucking to and from businesses in the county including inter-model yards and a FedEx terminal drive local truck traffic all across the Mid-South. Interstate 55 has the busier bridge. Long haul trucking adds to the truck count. A closure there for constructions forces rerouting on most truckers to the two lane construction detour across a the Hernando DeSoto Bridge.
Fears of congestion and the ability to respond to emergencies have consistently been voiced by the public and public officials in Arkansas. Local planners and administrators asked for another economic impact study which falls into a category in a required overall environmental study.
That final version of the report was due to be produced by for August according to the Senator.
Ingram expected there to be plenty of ammo in the SEIS produced by TDOT’s own consultants to bring more workable options into serious consideration for the first time.
“If the early findings hold true, my hope would be that TDOT would rethink and allow further input from the locals to address the problems without shutting the bridge down,” said Ingram. “In the original environmental impact study there was no talk of closing the bridge.”
But that was the option TDOT planners picked anyway. The senator pointed to the purpose of the restudy.
“This study that we asked for was done factoring in the economic impact of a bridge closure,” said Ingram.
Metropolitan Planing Organization Study Director Eddie Brawley pointed out the options that have been under consideration to this point and expressed hope that another road through the TDOT interchange project could be paved.
“They’ve been looking exclusively at two alternatives,” said Brawley, “six years with one lane open or three years with a closure.”
Both plans called for trucks to be shifted to Interstate 40 for the duration of the project.
The preliminary TDOT study had not been made available to the MPO for its May meetings.
“I have not seen this report,” said Brawley. “I’m hoping that makes them look at other alternatives.”
By John Rech