From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
The most important news of the week comes from the Tennessee Department of Transportation, which awarded a construction contract for a new interchange where Interstate 55 intersects with Crump Boulevard in Memphis.
That’s the interchange you hit as soon as you cross the old bridge into Memphis.
The good news is that the Tennessee Transportation Department does not intend to close the old bridge.
We all remember the fight to keep the bridge open, after Tennessee highway officials originally tried to close the bridge for nine months, while construction of a new interchange was taking place.
We finally got them to realize that the impact of an extended closure of the bridge would be devastating.
It would have forced businesses on either side of the river to close or drastically reduce their operations.
It would have made the daily commute a literal nightmare for thousands of people who work on one side of the river and live on the other.
It would have impacted commerce along one of the nation’s most important transportation corridors.
And I don’t even want to think about what would have happened if the I-55 bridge had been closed when damage was discovered in a support beam on the I-40 bridge.
Without risk of exaggeration, it would have been catastrophic for the region if both Memphis bridges were shut down at the same time.
Like everybody else who regularly crosses the river on the old bridge, I’m in favor of improvements to the interchange at Crump Boulevard.
One of most important improvements will be the construction of new travel lanes, which means interstate traffic on I-55 will no longer have to slow down to use single-lane, low-speed ramps.
The existing cloverleaf will be replaced with a multi-lane roundabout.
The construction contract also calls for repairs to the I-55 bridge deck.
The contract allows for temporary closures of the bridge during construction, although none of the closures will be as severe as originally proposed.
The bridge will be closed eight times for an entire weekend – from 8 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Monday.
Twice the bridge will be closed for a two-week period, for work that just cannot be completed if traffic is flowing through the construction zone.
The project is scheduled to begin this month, and is estimated to be complete during the first quarter of 2025.
I cannot wait.
From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.