MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As work continues to repair the I-40 Hernando de Soto bridge after a "crack" was found during an inspection Tuesday, a person on Twitter posted pictures claiming to show damage in the same spot in 2019, before the inspection that year. But is it true?
The damage found Tuesday caused the bridge to be shut down and traffic re-routed in Memphis and Arkansas. Friday, barges and boats that had been at a standstill under the bridge were finally allowed to begin traveling underneath the bridge.
Was there damage to the same area of the I-40 Hernando de Soto bridge at the time of the last inspection in 2019?
The Arkansas Department of Transportation
It's true. The Arkansas Department of Transportation said Friday in a news release that an inspector's drone video from May 2019 shows "evidence of damage in the same area of the fracture."
The question came up after David Manasco posted two pictures to Twitter, saying: "@myARDOT @myTDOT Well the I-40 crack started well before the 2019 inspection. Here is a shot I took in July 2019. You can see the crack was quite extensive at that point. Curious why this wasn't caught in Aug 2019 inspection. #40MSRiverBridge #HernandoDeSoto"
ARDOT said Friday an inspector's drone video shows evidence of damage on the lower side of the bridge in May 2019. They are seeing if the damage was noted in the September 2019 report and what was done about it.
You can read the full news release from ARDOT below:
The Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) has confirmed that an image captured by an inspector’s drone video shows evidence of damage in the same area of the fracture which caused the Interstate 40 Bridge to be shut down earlier this week, according to agency officials.
In May 2019, a video shows the evidence of the damage on the lower side of the bridge. ARDOT is now investigating to see if that damage was noted in a September 2019 inspection report and, if so, what actions were taken.
A new webpage dedicated to this closure of the I-40 Mississippi River Bridge is available. You can also stay current on this issue by following @myARDOT on Twitter and explore using the hashtag #40MSRiverBridge. Find additional information at IDriveArkansas.com or ARDOT.gov.
UPDATE: 5/17/2021 - 1:15 p.m. - The Arkansas Department of Transportation said Monday the inspector who did the inspection on I-40 Bridge in 2019 and 2020 has been fired.
The ARDOT director went on to say, "This is not about the failure of one person. Our investigation revealed negligence and process failure of ARDOT. We should have determined this fracture in 2019 and correct the flaws in our process."
The director said a drone will be used extensively in future inspections, and they are reviewing the inspection process to ensure this "never happens again."
5/15/2021 (ARDOT NEWS RELEASE) - 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, according to agency officials.
“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. “This is unacceptable and this employee has been terminated as of this morning,” she continued.
The drone video that showed evidence of this fracture in May of 2019 was taken when Michael Baker International was performing an inspection of the cables and upper portion of the bridge, not the metal supports below. The Department will start changing the inspection process by adding redundancies, with further changes possible in the future.
“A multi-agency team, including two contracting firms and both Departments of Transportation, worked through the weekend,” explained Deputy Director & Chief Engineer Rex Vines, “to develop a plan to stabilize the structure, begin planning on a permanent repair, and have started reviewing contractors for the work.”
The team will also continue to inspect and investigate the bridge to be sure that any long term damages, caused by the fracture or otherwise, are addressed. The Departments expect to have a rough timeline for returning traffic to the bridge once a contractor has been selected and they have been consulted on the work needed.
A webpage dedicated to this closure of the I-40 Mississippi River Bridge is available. You can also stay current on this issue by following @myARDOT on Twitter or using the hashtag #40MSRiverBridge. Find additional information at IDriveArkansas.com or ARDOT.gov.