INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Tippecanoe County bridge that officials closed Tuesday – and with it a large section of Interstate 65 – had been flagged as both structurally deficient and having a poor substructure, according to INDOT officials and a review of federal records obtained by a bridge watchdog site.
Will Wingfield, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Transportation, acknowledged the ratings Wednesday but said the problem with the Interstate 65 bridge span over Wildcat Creek centered around bridge bearings that slipped, allowing the bridge to flex more than usual as traffic went over it.
Contractors working in the area noticed the issue Tuesday and notified INDOT officials, who promptly closed the bridge.
“(Contractors) noticed when they were working in the area that there was some unusual movement in the bridge,” Wingfield said. “They closed the bridge with the assistance of law enforcement and rushed our bridge inspectors to the scene to look at it further.”
INDOT officials said the bridge could reopen as early as Wednesday night.
“The repairs are still ongoing and we are hoping to get I-65 NB safely reopened to traffic as quickly as possible,” Wingfield said. “There are three main steps to do that – the first is to install some temporary steel supports that were fabricated overnight; then once we have that it will give us access to the top of the pier where we can actually jack the bridge up and reinsert some temporary supports so we can open the bridge safely to traffic.”
Wingfield said that the area of I-65, which had been undergoing a widening project, had been under the watch of INDOT engineers who were aware of the issue with the bearings. The bridge had been inspected in both May of this year and September of 2014, Wingfield said. No new issues in those inspections were noted, he said.
“The one issue that contributes to this dates back to the original construction of the bridge back in 1968,” Wingfield said.
In Marion County, there are 963 public bridges, 79 of which have at least one poor condition – either with the deck, substructure or superstructure, Wingfield said.
I-Team 8 noticed exposed rebar and falling concrete at the bridge span over I-65 near Keystone Avenue. Similar issues can been seen on Lynhurst Drive that spans over Interstate 70. Wingfield cautioned that just because a bridge has a “poor” rating does not mean drivers are in danger. All public bridge must be inspected at least once every two years, according to Wingfield.
INDOT says of several of the interstate bridges listed in poor condition are due for repairs within the next year.
I-65 over Keystone Avenue: Bridge replacement contract bid in 2016
US 52 over Grassy Creek: Bridge replacement contract bid in 2016
Lynhurst Drive over I-70: Partial superstructure/end span replacement bid in 2016
I-70 over White River: Temporary supports currently being installed. Deck repairs under contract. Additional long-term repairs anticipated within the next few years.
All bridge statuses can be viewed by visiting this watchdog site.
Officials with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Bridge Inventory declined to comment and referred additional questions back to INDOT.