I-40 bridge over Mississippi River undergoing first inspection since emergency repairs
Starting earlier this week, the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) began an extensive inspection of the Interstate 40 bridge over the Mississippi River.
This is the first official inspection of the bridge since emergency repairs were needed last summer. The current checkup is a hands-on inspection and will be performed by ARDOT consultant Howard, Needles, Tammen, & Bergendoff (HTNB), which is a leading bridge expert according to Dave Parker, ARDOT’s public information officer.
While HNTB is inspecting the bridge, ARDOT personnel will visit the bridge and examine it personally.
“We, ARDOT, are going to actually get on the bridge and put our hands on and visual the area that was fractured and repaired last summer,” Parker explained.
Usually, the I-40 bridge receives several inspections each year. The two main types are a "routine inspection" and a "fracture critical inspection."
Parker said routine inspections are required by federal law to happen every two years. Fracture critical inspections, he says, are necessary due to the bridge’s design.
“There are five elements of that bridge,” said Parker, “If one of those five elements fails, there is no redundancy. There is no backup and the bridge could collapse.”
Some bridges are built in a way that if an element fails, there is a redundant structure to pick up the slack and avert danger of collapse. The I-40 bridge is a fracture critical bridge and receives that kind of inspection annually.
“We don’t have to do that, that’s not required by law. But, we go above and beyond giving it that inspection as well,” Parker said.
The additional inspections are meant to ease the public’s mind about using the bridge, Parker says. Beyond that, ARDOT received 18 recommendations in a report issued after the fracture in the bridge was overlooked for several years. The company plans to have different individuals complete the inspection every year, according to Parker.
“I know that these inspections this week may cause a little bit of traffic delay,” Parker said, “But people should understand that’s why we’re doing it. We want to make sure that bridge is still in good shape and it’s very important to all of us.”
The inspection will require some of the outside lanes to be closed for several days through mid-March. The westbound outer lane will be closed on weekdays from 5:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. and the eastbound outer lane will be closed from 8:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. There is a chance that either could be closed on weekends from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m.
A full inspection of the main arch spans is scheduled for September. He also said additional ultrasonic testing of steel welds will be performed this summer.