Crews perform investigation on I-40 bridge to prep for spring inspection

Published: Jan. 5, 2022 at 6:26 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Crews from the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) could be seen Wednesday on the I-40 bridge.

After what many drivers experienced over the summer with the bridge’s shutdown, there’s an understood concern from a site like this, but ARDOT is asking drivers not to panic.

This was the first step in assessing the new support beam that replaced the one with a critical fracture in the late summer.

“What you’re seeing on the I-40 bridge is not a full bridge inspection,” said Dave Parker, ARDOT’s PIO.

As Parker explains it, crews investigated the lead paint that covers the support beam.

“Sometimes, lead paint can cause difficulties in the ultrasonic testing,” Parker said. “What they are doing today is looking just at the lead paint to decide how is the best way to approach this.”

The full inspection will come in late spring, examining the five box girder spans to the west of the bridge’s main arch, which were the most impacted by the bridge’s critical fracture and subsequent shutdown.

Parker gave a ballpark of May/June of when that inspection will take place.

“We understand the heightened concern that people are going to have,” Parker said. “And so, this step to go in and investigate today, the lead paint, it’s just an example of how we’re going to have even more eyes on that bridge.”

In total, today’s investigation, along with the spring-time inspection and engineering analysis will cost roughly $1.5 million, split between ARDOT and the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), a price worth paying to prevent a summer shutdown like we saw last summer.

“We are inspecting it as we are required to do and beyond that,” Parker said.

Future bridge inspection protocol for ARDOT is inspections will not have the same survey lead conduct consecutive surveys, which played a part in the bridge shutdown, having the same employee survey the bridge multiple times in a row.

It’s just another way to keep bridges safe as well as the drivers who cross them.

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