Memphis, Tennessee and West Memphis, Arkansas
National Bridge Inspection Standards mandate inspections for highway bridges every two years. In keeping with this requirement, the Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) traditionally performs its own bridge inspections within the state, using traditional methods to inspect all primary and secondary structural bridge members.
However, the state’s two-span, tied-arch truss Hernando de Soto Bridge, which carries Interstate 40 over the Mississippi River between West Memphis, Arkansas, and Memphis, Tennessee, proved too difficult to inspect adequately using traditional methods alone, due to the considerable height, unique structural configuration of the trusses and heavy-traffic considerations.
The 160-foot height of the main navigation spans, combined with the arched configuration of the bridge itself, introduced a high level of complexity to the inspection, making many of the bridge’s structural components inaccessible to inspectors using traditional inspection techniques. The rope access climbing approach required extensive training of the rope-climbing experts to help them understand and prepare for the team’s ascent to the top of the bridge and its far reaches.
For several years, ARDOT turned to Michael Baker and our specially trained team of hands-on, rope-climbing inspectors with their motorized ascenders and other specialized climbing equipment to complete the inspections of the above deck portions of the arch truss. Michael Baker is one of a few engineering firms in the country with this technical capability.
Coordination was key to the success of the inspections. The team scheduled the inspections to minimize traffic delays and avoid unnecessary conflicts with ongoing bridge maintenance projects and coordinated with contractors to share lane closures and staging areas.
Since 2013, each year has presented unique challenges requiring innovative solutions.
“This one-of-a-kind inspection project required us to convene a team of highly trained and skilled rope-climbing inspectors from across the country to meet the many hard-to-reach inspection requirements.”
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