I-40 Mississippi River bridge inspection report released six months after crack detected

State News

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – An after-action report on the emergency and maintenance repair to the I-40 bridge spanning between Arkansas and Tennessee was released on Thursday.

Notably, the report said the crack in the bridge was noticeable in 2016.

ArDOT spokesperson Dave Parker said it mostly came down to the bridge inspector not doing his job thorough enough.

“He was an experienced bridge inspector, he knew what he was supposed to do and didn’t do it,” Parker elaborated.

Parker said this incident did shine a light on ArDOT’s Heavy Bridge Maintenance Inspection Program, which is responsible for 765 bridges across Arkansas.  ArDOT launched an investigation into what went wrong.

“And we said if there’s things that need to change to make it better, to make things safer whether it’s building a bridge or inspecting a bridge, we’re going to do it,” he said.

The Federal Highway Administration also investigated the program and recommended 18 changes to the HBI Program.  Changes were under the categories of quality control and assurance, inspection procedures, load rating procedures – which is how much a bridge can hold at any time, the removal of sediments around the underwater parts of bridges, and inspection resources.

ArDOT also recommended the creation of an oversight and policy committee the program would answer to in an effort to create more accountability and direction.

“You want checks and balances, you want those layers of yes we’re doing this the right way,” Parker said.

Also as part of the report, the FHA had 18 commendable practices ArDOT was already doing and supported those to be continued.

Parker says this supports some of their internal decisions that the FHA would agree with how they do. 

“The Federal Highway Administration has come in and said ‘we did our own investigation, our own review and there are 18 commendable practices, things they are doing right,” Parker said.

The program did not require any overhauls but ArDOT is confident with the new leadership hired and the implementation of all the recommendations that it will hopefully prevent another incident like the I-40 bridge.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction for sure and again that’s what I want the public to understand is that it’s a good program now, it’s going to be even better,” Parker explained.

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