File photo shows the Hernando DeSoto Bridge in Memphis, Tennessee. Photo: Trevor Birchett/CC BY-SA 4.0

Mississippi River Reopens to Vessel Traffic in Memphis as Backed Up Barges Top 1,000

Mike Schuler
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May 14, 2021

The U.S. Coast Guard lifted the waterway restriction on the Mississippi River near I-40 bridge in Memphis, Tennessee after it was deemed safe for vessels to transit beneath the bridge.

The Mississippi River is now open to all vessel traffic with no restrictions. As of Friday, there were 62 vessels and 1,058 barges in queue prior.

A crack was discovered in a crucial structural support beam of the I-40 Hernando DeSoto Bridge on Wednesday during a routine inspection of the bridge by the Arkansas Department of Transportation, which immediately shut the bridge down to road traffic.

A Coast Guard Captain of the Port waterway restriction subsequently closed the river to all vessel traffic between mile marker 736 and mile marker 737. Initially 16 vessels with a total of 229 barges had been held up, but that number swelled to more than 60 vessels and over 1,000 barges on Friday before the river was reopened. The bridge remains closed to road traffic.

“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,” said Coast Guard Capt. Ryan Rhodes, Captain of the Port of Memphis. “We appreciate the cooperative efforts of both the Tennessee and Arkansas Departments of Transportation, as well as maritime port partners, to ensure the safety of our waterway.”

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