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Mississippi River reopens near Memphis after shutdown caused barge jam

In this undated image released by the Tennessee Department of Transportation shows a crack is in a steel beam on the Interstate 40 bridge, near Memphis, Tenn.

Tennessee Department of Transportation via AP

The Mississippi River reopened to vessel traffic near Memphis on Friday, the U.S. Coast Guard said, ending a shutdown of a part of the waterway that disrupted shipments of oil and corn and caused a backlog of more than 1,000 barges.

The Coast Guard said the river is open to all vessel traffic without restrictions, after traffic was halted on Tuesday because of a fracture in the Hernando DeSoto Bridge that carries vehicular traffic on Interstate 40 over the river.

“Based on information provided to us by the Tennessee Department of Transportation, the Coast Guard has determined that transit under the I-40 bridge is safe for maritime traffic,” said Coast Guard Capt. Ryan Rhodes, captain of the Port of Memphis.

A tugboat with a barge attached sits near a boat ramp at Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Millington, Tenn. A crack in the Interstate 40 bridge linking Tennessee and Arkansas has shut down Mississippi River traffic near Memphis, forcing tugs that are hauling barges to wait until they receive clearance that it’s safe to pass under the closed bridge.

Adrian Sainz | AP

The reopening will begin to ease a jam of 62 vessels with a total of 1,058 barges that were waiting to pass through the closed area, according to the Coast Guard.

Almost all grain barges must pass beneath the DeSoto bridge on their way to Gulf of Mexico export facilities near New Orleans after being loaded along the upper Mississippi, Ohio, Illinois or Missouri rivers, according to the Soy Transportation Coalition, an agricultural industry group.

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