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Lanes to close on Interstate 40 bridge at West Memphis

Shutdown set today for inspection of Mississippi River span by Noel Oman | January 5, 2022 at 4:08 a.m.
FILE — An Interstate 40 sign is shown in this file photo.

The Interstate 40 bridge over the Mississippi River, which was closed for major repairs for almost three months last year, will require lane closings all day today to accommodate an inspection of the structure.

The Arkansas Department of Transportation described the inspection as routine.

The inspection is at least the second the agency has conducted or overseen since the bridge was closed for extensive repairs worth $10 million after a "significant" fracture was discovered by happenstance May 11. The work took until Aug. 1 before the bridge was fully re-opened.

Crews will close the westbound outside lane of the bridge from 7 a.m. until noon and the eastbound lane from noon to 5 p.m., weather permitting.

Signs and orange cones will control traffic, the department said.

Lanes on the bridge, also called the Hernando De Soto Bridge, were last closed for two days in back-to-back weeks in September for another inspection that also was described as routine.

The fracture and closing of the bridge, which carries 40,000 vehicles daily, led to the firing of the leader of the team responsible for inspecting the bridge and the retirements of the leader and his top assistant over the department's heavy bridge maintenance section and an overhaul of its policies and procedures.

The section is responsible for inspecting and maintaining 60 of the largest and most unique bridges in Arkansas, including the I-40 bridge connecting West Memphis and Memphis.

The results of an agency investigation, a Federal Highway Administration review and a forensic analysis of the fracture all led department leaders to conclude that among the "changes/enhancements to strengthen and improve" the bridge inspection program was placing the heavy-bridge maintenance section "under new management," according to an After Action.

The report said the bridge inspector missed the crack during inspections in 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2020. The 2018 inspection was performed by an inspector who had never inspected the affected part of the bridge. He since has been counseled and will receive more training.

The review found that the culture fostered by heavy-bridge maintenance program management allowed shortcomings and shortcuts to be overlooked and suggested the fired inspector's deficiencies were common knowledge within the program.

"Management's failure to adequately act on reports by employees concerned with the terminated inspector's job performance perpetuated a culture where team members did not feel they had the authority or support to question a lead inspector's procedures or thoroughness," according to the report.

Print Headline: Lanes to close on Interstate 40 bridge


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