A new report on the massive crack that shut down a major Interstate 40 bridge earlier this year indicates that the fracture had been there for several decades.
The Hernando de Soto Bridge connecting Tennessee and Arkansas was shut down for three months over the summer after crews discovered a crack in the steel beams, affecting the structural integrity of the well-traveled bridge. After months of repairs, all lanes of traffic fully reopened in August. Now, a forensic investigation revealed that the fracture likely occurred in the 1970s when it was constructed, FOX 17 reports.
An outside firm hired by the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ArDOT) said the crack appeared between two plates in a weld made with material that was susceptible to cracking.
"In all likelihood the cracking in the weld occurred within hours of its completion but was not detected by any post-weld repair fabrication testing and remained unchanged for a number of years," the report states.
According to the news outlet, even though the fracture was potentially there for decades, it wasn't visible by conventional inspection methods nor was it discovered during an ultrasonic inspection in 1982. The bridge inspector who carried out inspections of the bridge in 2019 and 2020 was fired after the bridge closure when years-old drone footage showed the crack under the bridge that wasn't noted in any reports.
"We will now move forward with confidence and make the changes necessary to improve our program so that the past will not be repeated," said Lorie Tudor, director of ArDOT.
The U.S. Department of Transportation is also conducting an investigation into the incident.