LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Federal inspectors have finished their review of the processes used by transportation officials in Arkansas to review bridges around the state.
In a release, the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration announced an investigation, which was brought on by the discovery of a structural crack on the Interstate 40 Mississippi River Bridge that led to a shutdown, was completed.
The FHWA conducted an assessment to review the Arkansas Department of Transportation’s process on administering requirements of the National Bridge Inspection Standards, identified opportunities for improvement and highlighted commendable practices.
After a two-month assessment, the FHWA released a report including 18 recommendations for ARDOT, along with 18 commendable practices the agency was doing.
The report noted these recommendations under five categories including quality control and quality assurance, inspection procedures, load rating and posting procedures, scour appraisals and inspection resources.
Throughout the list of the recommendations, the FHWA team noted ways to improve the quality and management of bridges.
According to the investigation report, ARDOT bridge consultant Michael Baker International (MBI) discovered a crack on the Hernando DeSoto Bridge located between West Memphis and Memphis on May 11, while conducting a routine inspection,
MBI immediately closed the bridge, which is maintained by ARDOT and the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
Documents released by ARDOT officials confirmed that Monty Frazier was the inspector fired after the fracture that closed the bridge was determined to be visible in a drone video shot as part of a 2019 review.
According to an interoffice memo obtained through a public records request, an ARDOT employee noted on May 17 “the crack had turned into a partial fracture of the tie girder and was severe enough to put the structure in jeopardy of failing.”
Also noted in the memo, when Frazier was asked why the crack wasn’t caught, the former employee said it was unsafe to complete the under-bridge inspection. The employee said in the memo that this is not true.
Eastbound lanes of the bridge reopened July 31 with westbound lanes resuming traffic on August 2.
According to the report, the cost of bridge repairs was approximately $10 million.