Please invest in Our Daily Planet today, by making a one time or monthly contribution.
We do not charge our readers a subscription fee for our content. We want to continue to grow our readership, particularly among millennials and public servants. Voluntary contributions from readers will help us employ interns and freelance journalists, expand our content, and reach a larger audience.
The Crack that Shut Down the Bridge Image: TDOT, via CNBC screenshot
By Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer
In another sign of America’s aging and vulnerable infrastructure, last Thursday a crack in a bridge over the Mississippi river halted hundreds of cargo ships along the nation’s most significant route for agricultural exports, not to mention that the bridge was shut down to auto traffic causing huge backups on I-40 in Tennessee.Corn, soy, and other crops were stuck waiting to sail south, while ships carrying crude oil and steel imports were waiting to head north. This stoppage comes on the heels of a significant pipeline shutdown that has led to continuing gas shortages up and down the east coast. Now that the river is cleared for through traffic, experts are reevaluating the efficacy of such heavy reliance on Mississippi river transport. And the bridge will be closed to autos possibly for months.
Why This Matters: First the Colonial pipeline and now this — our nation’s infrastructure is in need of bolstering. The New Orleans Port region, where most export barges are heading, handled 47% of waterborne agricultural exports in 2017. Additionally, experts say that bride closings like this one may become more and more common. As of 2019, the U.S. has 47,000 structurally deficient bridges. While President Biden has included funding for 10,000 bridges in his infrastructure plan, many officials say that won’t be enough to solve the problem long-term. As the nation embarks on massive green infrastructure plans, our supply chain infrastructure must diversify as well.
Fording the River
“The river is the jugular for the export market in the Midwest for both corn and beans,” said Colin Hulse, a senior risk management consultant at StoneX in Kansas City. Corn futures fell after the block by the entire exchange limit of 40 cents or 5.6%. The river is a throughway for about 25% of the country’s imported steel, 13% of frozen poultry, and millions of barrels of crude oil. At its height, the backup stalled 1,058 barges at the chokepoint near Memphis, TN, further delaying deliveries already late due to COVID-19 complications.
Although water traffic has now been cleared, the bridge remains closed to vehicles, which the Arkansas Trucking Association estimates could cost the trucking industry $2.4 million a day. The bridge typically carries 50,000 vehicles each day, including 12,500 trucks. The average travel time from Memphis to Arkansas via the bridge was previously 8 minutes. Now, interstate travel takes an average of 84 minutes. “Even if you’re looking at 6-8 weeks, that’s an incredible expenditure that the industry can’t simply absorb,” said Arkansas Trucking Association President Shannon Newton.
Traffic beneath the six-lane I-40 bridge was halted due to a crack discovered in one of the bridge’s steel supporting beams. The crack traces back to two years ago when a video taken by an inspector observed damage in the same part of the bridge. For many cities with crumbling bridge infrastructure, federal money can’t come soon enough. “This bridge will get fixed. It won’t wait for money,” said Paul Degges, Chief Engineer with the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
While an Olympic medal is special in its own right, the ones being handed out at the Tokyo 2020 games come with a little extra magic. After Tokyo won its bid to host the games, the Tokyo Medal Project, called on the Japanese people to donate their old recycled old electronic gadgets such as smartphones […]
by Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer A new series of bills have been introduced in Congress that aim to quell food waste. These bills — the Zero Food Waste Act, and the Cultivating Organic Matter through the Promotion of Sustainable Techniques Act (COMPOST) —will reduce food waste and in turn help create jobs, slow climate […]
Two dozen goats were unleashed in Manhattan’s Riverside park last week to get to work chomping down on invasive weeds. Crowds of spectators went to the park Wednesday to witness the ceremonial “running of the goats,” as the animals were released into the area, where they enjoyed a multi-course meal of Japanese knotweed, porcelain berry, multiflora rose, and even […]
Our Daily Planet is your daily dose of the stories shaping our world and the ways that you can take action. From the climate crisis to the protection of biodiversity, if these issues matter to you then please subscribe & stay informed!
Your privacy is Important! We promise never to use your email address to send you spam or advertisements.