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Report on I-40 Hernando de Soto bridge investigation faults Arkansas for lack of qualified engineers

The federal agency makes several recommendations to ARDOT, including more in-depth inspections and more qualified personnel.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The U.S. Department of Transportation said it has finished its investigation and released its report after a structural fracture caused the Interstate 40 bridge over the Mississippi Bridge to close earlier this year.

We're also have learned from inside sources that two employees have resigned upon the investigation's findings.

The fracture was found in May of 2021 and the bridge was shut down for several months.

The report faults Arkansas for not having highly qualified engineers overseeing the bridge inspections. The federal report looked at the Arkansas Department of Transportation's procedures and practices used to administer the National Bridge Inspection Standards requirements.

The federal agency makes several recommendations to ARDOT, including more in-depth inspections and more qualified personnel -- not just those on the inspection.   

"I think it was fair to say those who were in charge of leading the heavy bridge maintenance sector, maybe were not the best managers - good employees, veteran people, but maybe not the best managers. And that’s why we feel we need to and are going in a different direction," said Dave Parker, ARDOT spokesperson.

Parker said they will have different inspectors check different bridges every year. He said that should have been done already, but had not been happening. 

"They are supposed to rotate. That is part of the process already, just to get a different set of eyes on it, just to have a different set of checks and balances. And that wasn’t done," said Parker.

Other recommendations include evaluating all bridges over water and deciding which of those bridges need an underwater inspection.

The report, which is over more than 100 pages, also commends ARDOT for qualified staff, integrating technology for safety inspections, tracking bridge maintenance needs, and more. To view the full report, click here.

Another report released Thursday was an analysis of the fractured steel itself. The report revealed that back in 1982 an inspection was done on the steel in that area, because at the time, there had been concerns about the quality of the steel.

"There was signs or indications that the steel used from the get-go was not maybe the best quality steel. But I think back then they felt like they had taken care of it, but problems still existed inside that no one could detect," said Parker.

Read that report and more on the investigation by engineering & architectural firm Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. HERE.

You can read ARDOT's "After Action Report" HERE.

In a statement, Arkansas Department of Transportation Director Lorie Tudor said, "ARDOT is grateful that the bridge investigations are complete. We will now move forward with confidence and make the changes necessary to improve our program so that the past will not be repeated.  Our highest calling as public servants is the safety of Arkansas’ road users.  We appreciate Arkansans support and encouragement as we have navigated this difficult journey, which began exactly six months ago on May 11."

RELATED: I-40 bridge is finally done, which means it's now time for the I-55 Mississippi bridge to get inspected

RELATED: Fired employee was inspector for 9 'critical' bridges over past year in Arkansas

RELATED: ARDOT inspector who did 2019 & 2020 inspection on I-40 bridge has been fired

RELATED: UofM engineering professor explains how a bridge fractures

KTHV contributed to this report.

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