Bridge crack study concluded
By JOHN RECH
Arkansas Department of Transportation received a federal report analyzing the failure of the Interstate 40 Hernando DeSoto Bridge and the shortcomings in the department. The report produced by the United Stated Department of Transportation (USDOT) wrote, its investigative “teams identified improvement opportunities” for ArDOT bridge inspection. The total bill after contractor Kiewit Infrastructure Group repairs amounted to $10 million.
The cost to interstate truckers and truck-dependent business dwarfed the eight-figure fix. Nearly 50,000 trucks daily travel through West Memphis. The Arkansas Tucking Association said the closure cost trucking $2.4 million a day. The crack closed the Interstate 40 Bridge for three months while the structure received an extensive overhaul.
The crack, it seems, may be as old as the bridge and could have slowly ripped apart over time, according to the ArDOT assessment of the USDOT findings.
“In all likelihood, the cracking in the weld occurred with in hours of its completion bit was not detected by any post-weld repair fabrication testing and remained unchanged for a number of years,” read the report.
ArDOT Public Information Officer Dave Parker outlined change in the bridge maintenance began. The highway department attempted improving procedures and policies. Personnel changes had already started.
“There were some changes within our heavy bridge maintenance section we needed to to make,” Wrote Parker.
Three employees separated from ArDOT over inspection failures. ArDOT fired team leader Monty Frazier in May when the crack was discovered after he apparently missed seeing the crack in five annual inspections. Both Staff Engineer Stewart Linz and Heavy Bridge Engineer Michael Hill retired.
ArDOT not only saw changes in the ranks but also changed inspection procedures. Bridge inspectors must now be rotated at least every other year. That change mimicked an updated USDOT policy change. Inspections at welds and ultra-sound and joints will continue on the Hernando DeSoto Bridge. ArDOT also acknowledged the need for additional inspection equipment.
Experts thought the Hernando DeSoto Bridge crack discovered in May started in 1973 with installation welds and worsened over time. Repairs costing $10 million closed the bridge for 13 weeks.
Photo by TDOT