After the sudden closure of a major bridge connecting Arkansas and Tennessee cost the trucking industry more than $70 million, some adjustments to the traffic flow have cut the daily costs by more than half, data shows. 

The Hernando de Soto bridge was closed on May 11th, and there is still no exact date set for reopening, but Arkansas Department of Transportation has been working to improve traffic flow along the detour route, and data shows the changes have been effective. 

When the bridge first closed, drivers using the detour route regularly experienced backups of an hour or more, but since ARDOT implemented a series of lane changes on June 9th, those delays have been reduced to approximately 15 minutes. This reduction has cut the cost to the trucking industry down from approximately $2.4M a day to $936,000 a day. 

The lane changes reduced merging points, allowing for better traffic flow and an overall better travel experience. 

“We commend the Arkansas and Tennessee Departments of Transportation for acting in response to the concerns of the trucking industry and implementing measures to improve traffic flow on this major east-west shipping corridor,” said Arkansas Trucking Association President Shannon Newton. “When the bridge first closed, delays were regularly exceeding an hour. Now thanks to ARDOT’s traffic engineering, implementing strategic lane shifts, that delay is down to only 15 minutes.” 

In just the two weeks since ARDOT reconfigured traffic in West Memphis, we have saved roughly $21.9 million in expenses as the estimated cost per day decreased from $2.4 million to $936,000. Trucking is still losing nearly a million dollars a day, but these improvements are proving significant to an industry that is already struggling to meet demand,” he continued to 5 News.

Despite the major bridge closure, truck traffic has only reduced slightly, from 26,500 to 23,500, so maintaining optimum traffic flow is crucial. 

“Using the latest ATRI data, we estimate those 3,000 trucks that are re-routing 60 miles or more from the I-55 bridge are losing $513,000 per day in lost time and increased mileage while the cost of the 15-minute delay for the 23,500 trucks using the I-55 bridge is an estimated $423,000,” Newton said. “We are confident the ARDOT and TDOT are working with the utmost expediency to re-open the bridge so that is it safe for all traffic.”