A bridge on Interstate 40 was closed on May 11 after a crack was found in a support beam during a routine inspection. New photos from a kayaker appear to show that the crack was present as far back as 2016.
According to The Associated Press, 64-year-old Barry W. Moore said he photographed the bridge in 2016. He was reportedly on a kayaking trip in the Mississippi River with friends from a Boy Scout troop that he volunteers with.
At the time, Moore said he did not notice the crack. However, when he heard the news about the bridge, he decided to go back and look at the old photos.
After zooming in, he said he was able to see the crack and quickly showed his brother the photos.
“Our jaws dropped,” Moore said.
The Arkansas Department of Transportation has said that it cannot confirm the accuracy of the pictures after reviewing its own photos from 2016 and before.
“I can’t really comment as to the accuracy of these photos,” department spokesperson Dave Parker said.
As for the AP, it reported that a photo editor inspected the photo and confirmed that it was shot on Aug. 6, 2016.
The latest update in the saga of the cracked structure known as Hernando de Soto Bridge certainly raises concerns about the inspection process.
If a man was able to see the crack from a wide photo taken from the river, it is difficult to understand how a trained inspector would miss such a detail.
“This is unacceptable,” Arkansas DOT Director Lorie Tudor said. “From our investigation, we have determined the same employee who conducted the inspection in 2019 and 2020 failed to carry out his responsibilities correctly.”
While the department has not commented on the accuracy of the photos from Moore, Tudor said that drone video from 2019 showed the crack, which the inspector did not report, according to Fox.
These new developments also underscore the importance of technological advancements in inspections, including the use of drones like the one that shot the footage above. The AP reported that the department “did not have access to drone videos for its inspections before 2019.”
Dr. Andrew Assadollahi, department chair of civil and environmental engineering at Christian Brothers University, explained that the situation could have gotten out of hand if it was not addressed.
“Based on what I’ve seen of the photos, while this member of the bridge is definitely an important member, it doesn’t seem to be one of the main load-carrying girders of the entire bridge. But it’s still a very important member,” Assadollahi told WREG-TV.
“Any time you have a member that has fractured or failed like this member has, the loads acting on the structure have to take a new path. So if other members become overstressed, then eventually that could lead to a major, major problem.”
Fortunately, the crack was found before any catastrophic events despite the failure by the inspector. The AP said that traffic is being rerouted to a nearby bridge on Interstate 55.
The AP added that the repairs to the Hernando de Soto Bridge would begin soon but could take months. While this may be inconvenient, it is certainly a better outcome than the tragedy that could have occurred.
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