MEMPHIS, Tenn. –The 106-page Arkansas Department of Transportation Bridge Inspection Program Assessment report from the U.S. Department of Transportation called on Arkansas transportation officials to make changes.
In an opening letter, assessment team lead Larry O’Donnell said “teams identified improvement opportunities,” and later detailed five areas like quality control and inspection procedures. Federal officials recommended assigning a more qualified program manager.
ARDOT Spokesperson Dave Parker acknowledged his agency also found issues with leadership.
An ARDOT internal report released Wednesday referenced the inspector terminated for missing the crack in multiple inspections since 2016.
“There were some changes within our heavy bridge maintenance section we needed to make,” he said.
But the ARDOT internal investigation also found other people were at fault, saying management failed “to adequately act” and cited a “culture” where team members couldn’t question leadership.
As a result, Parker said Staff Engineer Stewart Linz and Heavy Bridge Maintenance Engineer Michael Hill retired Wednesday.
He would not say whether they would have been fired otherwise.
“I don’t want to comment on what could’ve happened. I can just tell you they chose to take retirement,” he said.
As for what’s next, he says ARDOT is making changes like adding personnel and not allowing the same inspector to look at the same bridge in consecutive years.
In addition, University of Memphis chair of civil engineering Dr. Shahram Pizeshk said they also should add more automated monitoring to supplement those inspections.
“It could be improved with additional instrumentation,” Dr. Pizeshk said.
Officials said the two engineers who retired worked at WRDOT a combined 63 years.