VIDEO: Construction Crews Installing Eight Steel Plates on Damaged I-40 Bridge
Wed June 30, 2021 - Southeast Edition Arkansas Democrat Gazette & WATN-TV Local ABC 24
Progress is being made by construction crews carefully working around the clock to make repairs to the Interstate 40 bridge in Memphis after it was closed May 11 following the discovery of a large crack spotted on one of its beams.
The fracture on the tied-arch Hernando de Soto Bridge that crosses the Mississippi River between Tennessee and Arkansas has disrupted local highway and street traffic since the bridge was shut down to vehicles shortly after the crack was spotted by an Arkansas inspector.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) said on June 26 that its crews had installed half of the permanent steel plates needed for repairs, with eight more currently being riveted in place.
TDOT oversees repairs of the shared bridge, while the Arkansas DOT is responsible for bridge inspections. Kiewit Infrastructure Group was contracted to make the repairs.
At this point in the painstaking operation, TDOT's crews are now in the second phase of repairs, according to Local ABC 24, a Memphis TV station.
"Phase two consists of two major components, with the first component [being] the post tensioning process itself," Brandon Akins, TDOT operations engineer, told the news outlet.
He explained that that meant getting rid of the tension on the cracked beam and, as a result, the fractured piece of the I-40 bridge's tie girder was removed on June 21.
Dave Parker, a spokesperson for ArDOT, told the Democrat Gazette newspaper that the cracked section was only a few feet long.
"Right now, we've got about 1.2 million pounds of tension being relieved off the fractured member," TDOT's Akins said. "We were able to cut the actual fractured member out."
In fact, that tension has been safely put on the composite section of the bridge, the Democrat Gazette reported.
TDOT has now moved on to the second component of Phase Two — the steel rehabilitation. That involves the drilling and installation of eight steel plates on to the I-40 bridge to handle the tension and weight that will come when the highway span is again open to car and bridge traffic.
"There's also another component to that which is [TDOT's] structure division reviewing over 1,200 linear feet of welds in this bridge to ensure that all welds are safe," he said in an interview with Local ABC 24, noting that a preliminary report could soon be reviewed.
According to a June 25 press update, more than 4,400 permanent bolts had been used by then to connect the plates and 108,000 lbs. of structural steel plating was added to the span's tie girder.
Neither DOT has provided a concrete timeline, but they estimate completion of the bridge repairs may not happen until the end of July, the Little Rock-based Democrat Gazette learned.
The crack on the six-lane, 48-year-old Hernando de Soto Bridge was spied during a routine inspection on a steel beam that connected chords to the arch. When the beam cracked, the load that was once carried by the beam shifted to other parts of the bridge.
A photo from 2019, confirmed by transportation officials to be authentic, showed the crack had most likely been around for years. The Democrat Gazette reported that another photo, currently being reviewed by Arkansas and federal officials, appears to show a fracture on the bridge as far back as 2016.
The discovery led ArDOT to fire the inspection team leader for missing the crack on previous checkups.
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