ARKANSAS — The Arkansas Department of Transportation has terminated an employee after past inspections showed a fracture in the bridge.
Officials said the former employee “failed to carry out his responsibilities.”
“From our investigation, we have determined that the same employee who conducted the inspection in both 2019 and 2020 failed to carry out his responsibilities correctly,” Director Lorie Tudor said. “This is unacceptable and this employee has been terminated as of this morning,” she continued.
The same employee carried out the inspections in 2019 and 2020 and was not using proper protocol when inspecting the I-40 bridge.
“ARDOT is referring this to the proper federal authorities for their determination if further investigation, criminal or otherwise, is warranted,” Tudor said.
Officials said this is about the failure of the inspection process that allowed this to happen.
Consultants were inspecting other parts of the bridge when they noticed the fracture.
“We should have discovered this crack in the beam 2019 and we are taking the steps to hold those responsible for not doing their job accountable, but more importantly, to correct the flaws in our process,” Tudor said.
ARDOT said they have purchased a drone and will be inspecting the I-55 bridge.
The areas of the bridge the terminated employee inspected are being re-inspected.
Officials said they have come up with a solution to temporarily stabilize the beam.
“A multi-agency team, including two contracting firms and both Departments of Transportation, worked through the weekend,” explained Deputy Director & Chief Engineer Rex Vines, “to develop a plan to stabilize the structure, begin planning on a permanent repair, and have started reviewing contractors for the work.”
TDOT and ARDOT chose Kiewit Corporation as the contractors to fix the bridge Monday.
Kiewit Corporation is based out of Omaha, Nebraska.
According to ARDOT, the permanent repairs will happen in two phases.
Phase One will be adding structural steel plating to the outside of beams to prevent any further propagation of the crack and allow the contractor to work.
Fabrication began Monday morning on the steel plates and hopefully, repairs will begin this week.
Phase Two is still being worked through. Officials said they are contemplating using high-strength steel rods to expand the fracture and restore the strength to the beam.
Then, the section will be replaced.
The bridge will be continually inspected to make sure this does not happen again.
A release said:
The team will also continue to inspect and investigate the bridge to be sure that any long-term damages, caused by the fracture or otherwise, are addressed. The Departments expect to have a rough timeline for returning traffic to the bridge once a contractor has been selected and they have been consulted on the work needed.
Cox Media Group