LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A lot of the focus of the Arkansas Department of Transportation is set on the I-40 bridge, but it is still responsible for more than 13,000 structures throughout the state.
They inspect everything from highway bridges to the simplest bridges in back county roads.
“If you have three pipes that are crossing a ravine for example that’s allowing any kind of traffic, the very basic thing that’s considered a bridge which has to be inspected by us,” ARDOT Spokesman Dave Parker said.
ARDOT has 27 inspection teams spread across the state.
During normal inspections, crews will look at the deck, which is the driveable portion, the middle portion of the bridge, and the underside and supports. Every bridge in the state is examined at least every two years and higher profile bridges, like I-40, are inspected annually.
If a bridge runs over a body of water then every four years crews will dive to inspect those areas.
“The inspections are pretty thorough it’s not just a walk-through, kinda look over ‘hey this looks good, hey that looks bad’ it’s a pretty thorough inspection,” Parker said.
Last year, Arkansas performed 10,384 inspections and only found 670 issues that needed immediate attention.
Parker said he would like a perfect track record, but says those are solid conditions for Arkansas bridges.
“We certainly don’t want anything to come in under but that’s, that’s not a bad return, I guess, but we certainly want to make sure that the fracture critical inspections or bridges, if you will, are in the best shape possible,” Parker said.
ARDOT will also use subcontractors to help with bigger and more elaborate bridges. This was the case with I-40, as it is deemed a critical-fracture bridge which is a bridge that is susceptible to cracking because of age and traffic volume.
Parker said the process worked how it should before this became a catastrophic event, “In this case, the inspector found the problem, quickly acted on it, and safety became top priority.”