MT. JULIET, Tenn. (WTVF) — Repairs to a badly damaged support column on an Interstate 40 bridge could take up to three weeks or more after Wednesday morning's deadly crash.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- I-40 westbound is reduced to three lanes as you get closer to the interchange.
- Mt. Juliet Road heading north will be also be down to three lanes to take some weight off of the overpass.
- If you're taking I-40 East to the Mt. Juliet Road exit, you must yield to street traffic instead of having your own lane.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol confirmed the crash happened around 5 a.m. at the Mt. Juliet Road overpass. THP said the driver lost control and traveled onto the right shoulder. The semi then went through the guardrail, struck the column and burst into flames.
THP officials said the driver, identified as 80-year-old Luther Stinson, of Nashville, was killed in the crash. He was a contracted driver for Lipman Brothers Trucking for about seven years.
Lowell Goldman, President and COO of Lipman Brothers released the following statement about Stinson:
“We mourn the loss of Mr. Stinson and his family is in our thoughts and prayers. It’s a tragic day for the Lipman Brothers and the Stinson family.”
Heather Jensen with the Tennessee Department of Transportation said repairs to the column could take up to three weeks. Jensen called the damage "quite extensive" but said there’s no damage to the “bent,” the section of the bridge that supports the beams on top.
Two lanes of I-40 West remain open. Jensen said while they do feel it’s safe to travel on the bridge, the northbound lane closure on Mt. Juliet Road will remain place for duration of repairs to lessen the weight on the bridge.
UPDATE: I-40 West at MM 226 is OPEN w/ 2 lanes. 3rd lane will open when crash is cleared. Mt Juliet Rd overpass is OPEN w/ 3 lanes. 4th lane will remain closed until repairs are completed. pic.twitter.com/Bp9HzMWyFP— Heather Jensen (@TDOTheather) June 23, 2021
In the next 24 hours, TDOT will shift traffic to the inside to make way for the repairs. Before that can begin, crews have to put up support for the column -- a process called “cribbing,” and that will take a week to get in place.
Repairs to the column itself will take up to two weeks, potentially longer depending on what crews find.
Jensen said TDOT is currently widening the bridge so they already have a contractor in place. They will give the contractor an emergency contract to add on to the work already in progress.
Wednesday's crash was just one of several recent bridge issues reported on Interstate 40 across the state.
In Kingston Springs, erosion caused a large crack in the concrete on a bridge near exit 188. TDOT said the concrete helps protect the steel pile from rust but has no bearing on the structural integrity of the bridge.
A stretch of I-40 in Memphis was shut down in May after a break was discovered in a beam on the bridge over the Mississippi River. Work is already underway to repair the beam, but the entire project could take months.
According to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association's 2021 bridge report, 881 bridges across Tennessee are considered structurally deficient, meaning one of the key elements is in poor or worse condition. This amounts to about 4.4% of the state's bridges.
The report detailed the top 10 most traveled, structurally deficient bridges across the state, four of which are in Middle Tennessee.
Of the bridges considered structurally deficient, 40 are on the Interstate Highway System while 85.7% are not on the National Highway System - which includes interstates and other key roads that link major airports, port, rail and truck terminals.
The ARTBA said Tennessee has identified 7,428 bridges that are in need of repair, which comes with an estimated cost of $3.7 billion.