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INDOT: I-65 Bridge Safe, Open

Friday, September 11, 2015

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After suddenly sinking 9 inches during construction repairs and closing—sending thousands of interstate travelers onto neighborhood roads—an I-65 Bridge has been declared safe and is once again open for traffic.

“We did a road test where we drove two dump trucks with a defined weight in different configurations across the bridge so engineers could observe it,” said Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Will Wingfield in a Wednesday (Sept. 9) interview with The Lafayette Journal & Courier. “They performed as designed.

@INDOT_ECentral via Twitter.com

The northbound lane of Wildcat Creek Bridge, which carries I-65 over the waterway near Lafayette, IN, reopened ahead of schedule and just in time for part of the Labor Day holiday.

“There is not another bridge in the state of Indiana that’s gotten the level of attention of engineers from the state and the Federal Highway Administration,” he said.

Ahead of Schedule

INDOT shared the news that the northbound lane of Wildcat Creek Bridge, which carries I-65 over the waterway near Lafayette, IN, would reopen ahead of schedule and just in time for part of the Labor Day holiday. The bridge reopened to traffic at about 7:30 p.m. EDT Sunday (Sept. 6), according to the agency’s statement.

After closing the bridge on Aug. 7 when crews realized that the bridge had tilted, the state brought in workers from Nicholson Construction Co. (Cuddy, PA) to develop and test a solution to bring the bridge back into commission, the Journal & Courier reported (Aug. 19).

In its Sept. 6 statement, the agency said the solution seems to have worked.

Project contractor Walsh Construction Company crew members first drilled steel casings through the water-tight soils. They then injected grout to fill and densify the sandy soils below before installing 12 micropiles 67 feet deep into the soil and through the footer of the pier.

INDOT

The brige had been closed since Aug. 7 after the contractor working on an $82.8 million project noticed that a pier had sunk 9 inches. It took about a month to identify, implement and test a permanent solution.

Once the micropiles were in place and the riverbank was stable, the contractor jacked up the bridge beams to their correct height. Finally, steel supports were installed.

Sensor Technology in Place

To check and monitor the bridge’s safety, INDOT also reported that Walsh teamed up with engineers at Purdue University’s Bowen Laboratory to install sensors. The sensors, which will remain in place and continue to send real-time data to the lab, monitor any movement on the bridge as a result of traffic.

Purdue engineer Jason Lloyd told news station WISHTV in August that two types of sensors were put in place: an inclometer to measure tilt and a strain-gauge to measure stress and how much load the bridge is carrying.

“With that data, we can calculate actual displacements in terms of inches or even feet if that’s the case,” Lloyd said of the inclometer at that time.

The sensors indicate that all is going well with the repairs.

“It looks like the northbound bridge is behaving just like the southbound bridge,” Lloyd told the Journal & Courier in its most recent story about the repairs. “It looks like the repair is working correctly.”

What Happened

The bridge originally closed Aug. 4 after crews, working on an $82.8 million rehabilitation and widening project on I-65, noticed unusual movement and rocker bearings fall from a bridge pier.

Temporary steel supports were delivered and installed overnight. They were meant to provide reinforcement until new bearings could be made and installed.

© iStock.com / MCCAIG

Sensors in place on the I-65 bridge (not shown) will continue to send real-time data to engineers to identify vibrations that are out of range of normal traffic meovements, such as settlement.

However, by Aug. 7, the bridge was closed once again when structural engineers saw movement in the riverbank pier.

As part of the project, construction crews drove steel piles into nearby soils to widen the existing piers and sheet piling to work below the Wildcat Creek waterline, which contributed to the problem, according to an Aug. 14 bulletin.

INDOT reported that experts had determined that the piles pierced the water-tight soils to a sandy layer with water under pressure. Sand and/or water percolated up from beneath the bridge pier, causing it to tilt. Structural engineers monitoring the riverbank pier noticed the pier settling and tilting, and ordered the bridge closed.

Back to 'Normal'

Although the bridge has reopened, it remains under construction as work on the original project resumes, Wingfield told the Journal & Courier.

However, Wingfield also said that sensors installed to detect traffic on side roads used as part of the detour indicate that local drivers appear to be getting some relief. At least one of the roads used for the detour saw a nearly 20,000-car increase during a traffic count after the bridge had closed.

"These are raw data, but it appears traffic has resumed normal use of I-65,” he said.

   

Tagged categories: Bridge Piles; Bridges; Federal Highway Administration (FHWA); Government; Government contracts; Infrastructure; North America; Quality Control; Roads/Highways

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