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Careful planning, fast action and hard work combined to allow the reopening of the I–40 bridge at Webbers Falls even earlier than the contractor's ambitious estimate.
After a brief ceremony on July 29 that included remarks from transportation and government officials and a moment of silence in memory of the victims of the accident, traffic began rolling in both directions. It was more than a week earlier than the deadline date set in the construction contract.
"Everyone connected with this project has given a maximum effort from the very beginning," ODOT Director Gary Ridley said. "I–m tremendously proud of the way our ODOT people responded to this crisis and the long, hard hours they worked. The many organizations we have partnered with on this project have also given the utmost in work and cooperation.
Our contractor, Gilbert Central, did an incredible job of organizing and carrying out a project that would normally take twice as long."
"With a major coast–to–coast traffic artery interrupted by the bridge disaster, rapid reconstruction was imperative, and all parties came through brilliantly. We had a safe, well–coordinated project and an early completion on a sound, properly designed structure," Ridley said.
The bridge was struck by two barges moving upstream outside the marked channel of the Arkansas River navigation system on the morning of May 26. The falling sections of the bridge resulted in 14 motorists being killed.