Arkansas lawmakers question ARDOT director on inspections after I-40 bridge closure

Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Arkansas lawmakers held a meeting today with the ARDOT director where the fracture of the I-55 bridge and the future regarding repairs were discussed.

The meeting lasted about two hours and legislators had a lot of questions for the ARDOT Director, Lorie Tudor.

Tudor and the deputy director addressed the subcommittee explaining how the fracture was discovered.

Tudor announced Monday that the employee responsible for inspections on the bridge was fired after it had been determined that the fracture that caused the closure last week could be seen in a drone video shot in 2019. 

They spoke about the employee who was fired for missing the fracture in 2019 and 2020, and ARDOT said they are looking to see if any other employees are at fault. 

Legislators asked if he was in charge of inspections on other projects, with some saying “It puts all other inspections ARDOT does in question.”

ARDOT said he was on inspection teams but not in charge, and that all inspections by the former employee will be inspected again.

Legislators asked how the employee missed the fracture, with ARDOT replying that he is supposed to drop down to the beam and move across the beam to inspect each part. Instead, ARDOT said the employee dropped down, looked left and right but did not move across.

They also asked about the bridge inspection process and why they only had one employee do the inspection. 

“And that’s part of our flaw in our process that we are going to fix that we are going to have a redundancy those checks and balances,” said Tudor.

The bridge repair ARDOT said will be a two-phase repair. Phase one should be complete this week to stabilize the bridge. Phase two plans are still underway. 

The timeline on reopening the bridge will be several months.

On Tuesday, Governor Asa Hutchinson applauded Tudor’s “quick actions.” 

“She took quick action,” Hutchinson said. “She didn’t make any excuses. She’s been very transparent in this, and I applaud her for that. I think she handled it perfectly well.” 

You can watch the full meeting in the video player above.

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