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One year after the I-40 bridge shut down, transportation officials move ahead with lessons learned

The closure lasted almost four months. The total repair cost was $10 million. The shutdown frustrated drivers and tainted the public's trust.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Reflect, plan, build. 

That's the goal of transportation leaders in Arkansas and Tennessee, after engineers shut down the I-40 Hernando-Desoto bridge after discovering a large crack in a major steel beam one year ago Wednesday.

The closure lasted almost four months. The total repair cost was $10 million. The shutdown frustrated drivers and tainted the public's trust.

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

One year later, transportation leaders are looking ahead and making several changes.

“It feels like it's been more than one year,” said Dave Parker, ARDOT spokesperson. “The I-40 bridge has been inspected and re-inspected and analyzed more than probably any bridge in the country now."

According to Parker, more rotating inspections was one of the 18 recommendations given from ARDOT’s internal investigation and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

"We reorganized the leadership within the heavy bridge inspection team, basically new management," said Parker.  

In May 2021, the bridge's 2019 and 2020 inspector was fired from the department. Soon after, ARDOT added a fourth statewide bridge inspection team. Other recommendations included: detailed underwater inspections for bridges over water and welds will continue to be inspected with ultrasonic technology.

RELATED: Opinion | Perhaps a new bridge over the Mighty Mississippi is in our future | Otis Sanford

In one year, leaders repaired the beam and reopened the bridge, but Parker admits, fully restoring the public's trust might take more time.

“We could always do better,” Parker said. “And that's what we learned from that. We also learned that the public's trust is something we never take lightly."