Questions arise about crack in I-40 bridge after 2019 photos resurface

Crack in bridge
Crack in bridge((Source: TDOT))
Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 10:09 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - One of the benefits of the M-bridge being so beloved and so photographed by Memphians is we have lots of pictures and videos of it.

So, when transportation officials said they didn’t know when that bridge fracture happened, a couple of curious citizens started looking through their photo albums.

Amateur photographer David Manasco found a picture he took of the Hernando DeSoto Bridge during a riverboat cruise two years ago. His July 2019 photo shows damage in the same area where a major fracture was discovered Tuesday.

“My reaction was like,wow!” he told WMC Action News 5. “It’s been there that long? It’s especially worrying to me because how many thousands of people cross that bridge every day?”

Drone enthusiast Connor Ryan searched his video archives and discovered he, too, has a 2019 image of that damage.

“I was like, how did they miss this,” he said. “I’ll be angry if it comes out that they purposely ignored it. That would make me angry.”

Manasco posted his picture to Twitter Wednesday. Ryan posted his to Facebook Thursday. Friday morning, the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) confirmed an inspector’s drone video from May 2019 showed the same damage. ARDOT says an investigation is now underway.

“We’ll be going through those inspection reports again,” said ARDOT spokesperson Dave Parker, “and talking with those who were part of that inspection to find out was that evidence of damage noted in the 2019 report. If so, was any action taken? What was done to remedy the problem?”

Friday morning, barges were once again allowed to pass under the bridge. But vehicle traffic up top is still off limits.

Manasco and Ryan are left wondering, did the inspection process fail?

“I just hope they fix the bridge in a timely manner,” said Ryan.

“It’s a glaring crack that was missed and that’s really the concern I have,” said Manasco. “Who’s going to check the checker, you know what I’m saying?”

ARDOT declined to release the inspector’s 2019 drone video. Meantime, the Tennessee Department of Transportation handles repairs on the bridge. TDOT’s design team is considering using steel rods over the damaged area until that whole 37-foot section can be replaced.

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