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I-540 bridge being inspected this week

You may experience slowdowns going over the Arkansas River for the next day until the inspection is completed.

FORT SMITH, Ark. — You may experience a slow down on the I-540 bridge in the River Valley this week because it’s been taken down to one lane. The Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) is doing its annual inspection of the bridge. After the dangerous discovery along the I-40 bridge near Memphis, 5NEWS wanted to know more about the inspection process. 

ARDOT has done a routine inspection of the I-540 bridge every May, and it just so happens that a week-long inspection started one week after a fracture was discovered in the 1-40 bridge near Memphis, shutting the bridge down for what could be months.

Dave Parker, the ARDOT spokesperson, says in the 2020 inspection of the I-540 bridge, it had no cracks in the beam, but there was some corrosion and loss of paint.

ARDOT rates bridges from zero, being the worst, to 9, being the best. Parker says the part cars drive on got a 6 while others got a 5 and 6.

“It came away last May with a fair rating," Parker said. "A fair condition is really not out of the ordinary. The bridge is relatively old. It was constructed in 1967."

After last week’s discovery, they know now more than ever the importance of explaining how these inspections work.

5NEWS asked ARDOT if the employee who previously inspected the I-4o bridge and was fired looked at any bridges in Northwest Arkansas or the River Valley. They say there is documentation of what that inspector examined. We have asked for that documentation – and will pass it along when we have it. 

“That’s why we said immediately; we are going to go back and reinspect all of these bridges. And I-55, for example, that’s why that bridge is currently being inspected today and should wrap up by Friday, just to give people another level of comfort,” Parker said. 

The I-540 bridge inspection should be complete Thursday, weather permitting. If you are interested to see how bridges were rated where you live, click here.

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