Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (D) visited Tennessee on Thursday to learn more about a bridge closure, The Associated Press reported.

Buttigieg met with business and political officials at a FedEx facility in Memphis to discuss the closure of the Hernando de Soto Bridge on Interstate 40, which connects Memphis and the Arkansas city of West Memphis. The bridge closed down May 11 after a crack was found on one of two horizontal beams.

Business officials at the meeting noted that I-40’s closure is causing trucking delays on the neighboring Interstate 55.

“Right now the drivers, 26,500 drivers a day – that’s on the commercial side – have relied on that bridge,” Shannon Newton, president of the Arkansas Trucking Association, told the Commercial Appeal. “And so now you have those same 26,500 drivers facing a decision. Do they want to risk it and chance what the congestion and traffic delays are at that time of day? Or do they want to choose a different route?” 

Donna England, a Tennessee Trucking Association executive, said in the meeting that I-40’s closure is also making it more expensive for businesses to operate, citing an ongoing work shortage. 

“Our infrastructure is aging … They’re old and they’re gonna need work. If we don’t put money towards them, are we going to have this happen in other states?” she asked. “They’re adding cost.” 

Buttigieg said that Memphis is “vital” to the country’s transportation, and noted that the repairs were proceeding without regard to politics, “which is a reminder that such things are still possible, especially when it comes to infrastructure.”

He also noted that the bridge’s closure is having an impact on the U.S. economy at large.

“We’re going to be here with you every step of the way,” Buttigieg said in the meeting. 

The transportation secretary’s visit comes as President Biden is pushing his $2 trillion infrastructure package, with GOP lawmakers arguing that the package should focus more on roads, highways and other traditional work projects instead of broadband access and electric vehicles.

There are 45,000 bridges that are in poor condition and need repair in the country, according to the AP.

Tags Biden infrastructure plan Hernando de Soto Bridge Interstate 40 in Tennessee Joe Biden Memphis Memphis & Arkansas Bridge Pete Buttgieg Pete Buttigieg Pete Buttigieg Tenneesee

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