Arkansas Department of Transportation inspectors, two failed attempts to identify cracks in the bridge linking Arkansas and Tennessee, who informed the bridge closure last week, the department announced on Monday.
Although the officer did not name the inspector, Rex Vines, deputy director and chief engineer of the Arkansas Department of Transportation. It said at a news conference on Monday that “the same person was the team leader in both inspections” for 2019 and 2020.
“He didn’t see it,” department director Lorie Tudor said at a press conference, “but the reason he didn̵7;t see it was because he didn’t follow the proper procedures.” “Every inch of the body of the beam,” she said, adding, “That didn’t happen.”
Dave Parker, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Transportation, said decks, bridges and infrastructure are inspected annually. The department also hires private contractors every two years to inspect the top of the bridge as well as higher cables and extensions, Parker said.
The agency said the problem was found May 11 by a private contractor during an inspection of the bridge traveling from downtown Memphis to Arkansas. The contractor noticed the critical beam was almost cut and called 911: “We have to get someone off the bridge right away!”
The bridge, also known as the Hernando de Soto Bridge, remains closed.
Drone footage in 2019 showed a crack in the bridge across the Mississippi River, meaning inspectors had not been reported twice.
The bridge on Interstate 40 opened in 1973 and spans two 900 feet in length.It is maintained by state transportation officials in both Tennessee and Arkansas. Arkansas is responsible for the inspections and Tennessee handles maintenance matters, officials said. The Arkansas Department of Transportation is responsible for inspecting 13,610 bridges, according to Mr Vines.
After the bridge was closed last week, Arkansas transportation officials reviewed the bridge’s earlier inspections. The bridge’s drone footage was captured in May 2019 by a contractor working for Michael Baker International. Arkansas Department of Transportation employees inspected the bridge last September, the department said.
When asked why the crack was not discovered sooner if it appeared on the drone video, Ms. Tudor said the video was about five hours long “and less than a second” showing the crack.
She also said outside contractors were not responsible for the supervision. She said of her department, “A mistake was made with the ARDOT that we had not discovered during our routine review process.”
Tudor and Mr Wein said the department would improve the way they review infrastructure audits. But did not announce any changes on Monday.
More than 35,000 vehicles cross the bridge per day – about a third of commercial traffic. Since the shutdown, those vehicles have indirectly relied on other bridges nearby. Alternatively, drive 100 miles north and cross over to Missouri.
The ship was prevented from passing under the bridge, but those restrictions were lifted by the United States Coast Guard on Friday.
It’s unclear when the bridge will open safely, Mr Vines says, most repairs are usually done in two steps. The first set would make the bridge stable enough to perform more necessary work, he said. Vehicle traffic could resume after that second phase, he said.
Overall, Ms. Tudor said the problems facing the transportation department were more than one bridge or one inspector. “Will we see more and more of these types of maintenance problems in the future? And the answer is for sure, ”she told reporters on Monday.“ We have a very old infrastructure. ”
The closure of the bridge underscores the deterioration of the country’s infrastructure and the potential dangers it poses.President Biden has called on Congress to approve the money for an ambitious and expensive proposal to overhaul and upgrade. Bridges include roads, airports, public transportation, railways and ports across America.
Ms. Tudor said she wants to see such efforts supported. “Yes, we will see more and more maintenance challenges as we move forward and that is why we all have. The hope is that some infrastructure kits will be reviewed by Congress in the near future, ”she said.“ Hopefully everyone will learn from our failures here. ”