The Hernando de Soto Bridge in Memphis, Tennessee — a vital shipping and trucking route that connects Tennessee and Arkansas — has been closed to traffic since Tuesday after a routine inspection uncovered a potentially “catastrophic” crack in one of the bridge’s beams.

Now, officials are saying even temporary repairs to the bridge could take months, prompting concerns about potentially massive economic consequences.

Paul Degges, the chief engineer of the Tennessee Department of Transportation, told CNN Thursday that it would take “probably six to eight weeks minimum” to get the bridge repaired enough so vehicles can safely traverse it.

He added that such a repair would likely be a temporary solution while engineers and contractors find a more permanent fix.

“Hopefully, we can pull a rabbit out of a hat sooner, but public safety is most important. There are lots of moving parts to look at,“ Degges said.

NEW IMAGES of the MEMPHIS BRIDGE CRACK courtesy of @myTDOT Yes, Infrastructure bill please. Now. @MemphisHoller

— The Tennessee Holler (@TheTNHoller) May 12, 2021

The consequences of the shuttered bridge, which carries Interstate 40 over the Mississippi River, are already being felt.

The U.S. Coast Guard said Thursday that more than 700 barges were stuck on the Mississippi River after a waterway restriction was imposed because of the faulty bridge.

The New York Times, citing transportation industry officials, said the river could be reopened to traffic by late Friday at the earliest.

#BREAKING: @myARDOT says an inspector found a “significant crack” on the I-40 bridge. It is CLOSED TO TRAFFIC on both sides indefinitely. Trucks are being rerouted here. Stay with @WMCActionNews5 for details. #memphis #arnews #tnnews

— Joyce Peterson (@MemphoNewsLady) May 11, 2021

On land, however, the situation appears more bleak. The average daily traffic for the bridge is about 45,000 vehicles — one-quarter of which is commercial truck traffic, CNN reported, citing TDOT data.

All that traffic will need to be rerouted for the duration of the bridge’s closure. Heavy traffic has already been reported in the area.

👀 Traffic really building up now on I-55 bridge coming into Memphis @FOX13Memphis I am live right now #GMM

— Amy Speropoulos (@AmySperopTV) May 12, 2021

William B. Dunavant III, CEO of Dunavant Enterprises, a global distribution and logistics company based in Memphis, said the bridge’s closure is expected to create “a real supply chain choke from a trucking standpoint.”

“Memphis is really a nerve center of this country from a supply chain perspective,” he told the Times.

The bridge’s closure comes amid President Joe Biden’s efforts to increase spending on infrastructure, including bridges and highways.

Biden has been meeting with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to win support for his nearly $2 trillion infrastructure plan.

“After decades of disinvestment, our roads, bridges, and water systems are crumbling,” the White House said in a statement of the plan, adding: “It has never been more important for us to invest in strengthening our infrastructure and competitiveness, and in creating the good-paying, union jobs of the future.”

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