The Hernando de Soto Bridge, connecting Memphis, Tennessee and Arkansas, closed down in mid-May when inspectors from the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) found a full crack in the bridge’s steel beam support structure.
While closed with the Tennessee Department of Transportation doing work on repairing it, ARDOT opened a side-bridge on the I-55 to commercial truck traffic. Not tailored to carrying the additional heavy-duty trucks every day, this change was a temporary measure to save thousands of truckers from taking a minimum 60-mile detour.
The plot also thickens when it was found that the steel beam was showing cracks as late as 2019, if not earlier, according to drone footage from that year.
From our #40MSRiverBridge Press Conference: Photo of fracture pulled from 2019 Drone Footage and an example of a snooper, a piece of equipment we use to inspect the underside of bridge structures. pic.twitter.com/kyotAAcFvj— Arkansas DOT (@myARDOT) May 17, 2021
While nobody was directly harmed as a result of the oversight, the evacuation and over 75-day shutdown could have been at the very least reduced were the cracks noticed sooner. Allegedly, the inspector in charge of inspecting the Hernando de Soto bridge in 2019 has been fired.
Drivers who traveled near Memphis will breathe a sigh of relief that the congestion along the Memphis & Arkansas Bridge (the official name for the I-55 bridge) is going to be relieved. With deprecating infrastructure across the nation, it is always good to hear news about reinforcing what the nation already has.
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