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ARDOT fires employee who failed to note I-40 bridge fracture in reviews

The director of ARDOT (the Arkansas Department of Transportation) told reporters Monday the department has terminated an employee who reviewed earlier inspections of the I-40 bridge across the Missississippi River at Memphis, a bridge that is now temporarily closed due to the discovery of a major fracture in one of its steel beams.

Since an ARDOT contractor found the crack during a May 11 routine inspection, the bridge had been closed to traffic both across and under the bridge. Inspectors cleared the bridge on Friday for river traffic to continue, but traffic across the bridge is still off-limits and is being diverted to the older, smaller I-55 bridge, causing a major snarl in one of the nation’s key transportation routes.

Also on Friday, ARDOT said it had found earlier evidence of the damage on the bridge and was investigating to see if the damage was noted in previous reports.

At Monday’s press conference, ARDOT Director Lorie Tudor confirmed an ARDOT employee who reviewed the 2019 and 2020 inspections of the bridge failed to note the fracture and was terminated earlier that morning. 

Also at the conference, ARDOT released drone footage from May 2019 of an inspection of the bridge that clearly shows the fracture. Watch the video below. The fracture comes into frame around the :20-second mark.

Tudor said ARDOT is changing its inspection policies to include more checks and balances, and that all bridges inspected by the terminated employee will be reinspected starting this week. The director also stressed the department will be transparent and accountable in the process.

Rex Vines, ARDOT’s deputy director and chief engineer, said a multi-agency team worked through the weekend to develop a plan to stablize the structure and said it’s also working on a permanent repair plan.

Vines said ARDOT is in the process of selecting a contractor for the job, but until one is found, a timeline for traffic to resume across the bridge cannot be determined.

For updates on the I-40 bridge from ARDOT, click here.

Image via ARDOT

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