“The Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) has confirmed that there was a failure in the inspection process which allowed evidence of damage to the I-40 Mississippi River Bridge to go unnoticed,” ARDOT said in the release.
The bridge — which serves as a major artery for traffic crossing the Mississippi River between Memphis and Eastern Arkansas — was shut down a week ago for emergency repairs after transportation officials discovered the crack during a routine inspection.
“From our investigation we have determined that the same employee who conducted the inspection in both 2019 and 2020 failed to carry out his responsibilities correctly,” Director Lorie Tudor said in the release. “This is unacceptable and this employee has been terminated as of this morning.”
The closure of the bridge also disrupted transport underneath, holding up more than 60 vessels with over 1,000 barges from Tuesday until the waterway was reopened Friday, according to the US Coast Guard.
No reopening date set
“Both phases will need to be completed before traffic can re-open on the bridge,” the release said. “At this point, we are unable to project a re-opening date.”
Phase one of the repair will see steel plates installed on each side of the fractured piece of structure to “strengthen the damaged steel plates providing stability needed for crews to install equipment for the permanent replacement of the damaged components and continue bridge inspections.”
Those plates — consisting of 18,000 lbs of steel — are being fabricated and are expected to be completed and transported to Memphis for installation by Wednesday.
Phase two is being designed and will be finalized by the contractor, according to the release. After that is done, the bridge will be reopened to traffic.