ArDOT: “This fracture had potential to become a catastrophic event.”

“The bridge is nearly 50 years old, and the constant movement and use are taking its toll on the bridge,” Tudor said.
Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 3:53 PM CDT
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KAIT) - The Arkansas Department of Transportation held a press conference Wednesday, updating the status of the I-40 bridge that connects Arkansas and Tennessee.

According to the Associated Press, a highway official said late Wednesday that repairs to the bridge could take months to fix.

During the press conference, Arkansas Department of Transportation Director Lorie Tudor said national experts have been called in to evaluate the crack, and once complete a remedy will be determined.

“The bridge is nearly 50 years old, and the constant movement and use are taking its toll on the bridge,” Tudor said.

Deputy Director & Chief Operations Officer Rex Vines explains that the crack was found in two beams that horizontally support the entire bridge. This crack did not appear in the previous inspection.

Assistant Chief Engineer Steve Frisbee said, “That even simple solutions, such as welding a repair into place, become more complicated due to the size and that it’s over the water.”

The crack is closer to the Tennessee side of the bridge.

The last inspection was in September 2020. Officials say I-40 is a “fracture-critical bridge” which means it’s inspected annually.

Past inspections never revealed any issues with the bridge.

ArDOT says the size of this crack is more concerning, also it being over the river is another challenge to its repair. One side of the beam is cracked, over 50% cracked through.

ArDOT says they’re unable to provide much information on the timing of repair because they are still awaiting the diagnostics.

The AP reported that Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) said he would be working with colleagues in both Arkansas and Tennessee to make sure the I-40 bridge repair would be included in President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson said on social media that he spoke with Tudor on the issue.

Director Tudor says the primary goal is the safety of the road users and the secondary goal is to reopen the bridge to traffic as soon as they can safely do so.

The bridge had seismic modifications in 2011, and carries 41,000 vehicles daily, with 30% of that being commercial vehicles.

Right now the I-55 bridge is carrying the overload of traffic from the bridge closure. Vehicles can go north to the Caruthersville crossing or south to the Helena West Helena crossing.

Barge traffic is also at a standstill because of the damage.

FedEx is preparing for the detour, and what it could mean on getting your package on time.

Arkansas and Tennessee officials did discuss the need to build a third bridge over the Mississippi River years ago, but it was dismissed by lawmakers because of expense.

Copyright 2021 KAIT. All rights reserved.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.