Cars Damaged by IN-KY Bridge Dripping Paint


According to reports, several vehicles were splattered by paint dripping from the top of the Sherman Minton Bridge, due to a paint system failure.

The bridge carries I-64 and US 150 traffic over the Ohio River between Louisville, Kentucky, and New Albany, Indiana, providing a “vital link” in the interstate highway system. The $137 million rehabilitation project started construction in 2021 and is expected to last four years.

Vehicle Damage, Paint Failure

With thousands of cars travelling across the Sherman Minton Bridge daily, reports indicate that some drivers have said that paint has been dripping from the top of the bridge onto cars below, possibly for months.

Mike Scheser, who commutes to New Albany from Louisville, reported that his car was spattered last week.

“As I come across the Sherman Minton Bridge, I saw a splatter on my windshield and I thought it had started to rain a little bit—maybe a little drizzle—and when I ran the wipers it kind of smeared a little bit,” said Scheser. “And I said, ‘Well, that's not rain.’”

Sheser said when he got to work, he noticed the droplets of paint on his car and still can’t get the spots off.

News crews who drove across the bridge last week reported they saw paint splashed on the median in at least two different spots. Dozens of people have also reportedly posted pictures on social media of their vehicles splattered by the bridge’s paint.

A spokesperson for the Sherman Minton Renewal project provided a statement to local news station WDRB regarding the incident:

“Recently some vehicles have encountered dripping paint while driving across the Sherman Minton Bridge. The contractor team has reviewed the issue and determined this was caused by a mechanical failure within the paint system that was quickly remedied.

“Barriers and paint containment systems are in place to help contain materials. Contractors take precautions to prevent issues from happening in active construction zones. But at times incidents like this may occur, and we apologize for any inconvenience to affected drivers.

“Drivers whose vehicles were impacted by this short-term situation are encouraged to call 1-855-INDOT4U or visit to share details of your situation with the customer service representative.”

Scheser told reporters that he still feels nervous about the bridge, wondering if he should take a different route until the project is over.

“This kind of worries me as this project continues," he said. “What else is going to happen? Could something fall off the bridge? There's a lot of work happening. There's a lot of action happening on that bridge. Now, I'm kind of concerned. What's next?”

Bridge History, Project Background

Named after the former U.S. senator from Indiana, the structure was built by Burgess and Niple (Columbus) in 1961. The double decker two-span steel through arch bridge measures about 2,053 feet long and 42 feet wide. Upon its completion, the American Institute of Steel Construction dubbed the structure “the most beautiful long-span bridge of 1961.”

Throughout the years since its inauguration, the bridge was rehabilitated in 1997 and again from 2011-12 when cracks were discovered in the main load-bearing structural element. The bridge reopened in February 2012.

In 2019, the bridge underwent inspections in advance of a larger renovation effort that has been anticipated for years. At the time, the Sherman Minton Renewal's project website reported that the structure was “deteriorating and long-term repairs are needed to extend the life of the bridge.”

Through the proposed rehabilitation project, project spokesperson Andrea Brady said the service life of the “important community asset” will increase an estimated 30 years.

At the end of March last year, officials announced that lane closures were going into effect on the bridge as inspections began in preparation for the roughly $137 million Sherman Minton Renewal project. Over the course of the inspections, technicians examined the bridge's structure and assessed its condition ahead of the start of construction.

Following inspections, the Sherman Minton Renewal project will involve the replacement or renovation of all bridge decks, steel elements and hanger cables on the crossing, along with drainage repairs, new lighting and a paint job. Some work will also take place on I-64 and Interstate 265 in Indiana and I-264 in Kentucky during the three-year process.

Over the course of the estimated 843 total days of work, the bridge was expected to completely close for a total of 54 days, as to avoid a total shutdown like the one that took place in 2011. In wake of the closure, the Courier Journal reported that a typical commuter journey from New Albany to Louisville increased from 15 minutes to 90 minutes for many within the region.

The renewal project is to be paid for jointly by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the Indiana Department of Transportation.

Then, in July, preparations for bridge painting began, with crews securing rigging for painting platforms. Painting began on the upper truss and will occur during all phases of the project.

A canopy was placed above the westbound deck to provide painters a safe working platform and protect vehicles from falling debris. Then, the steel was blasted to ensure the surface was free of existing paint and rust, followed by a coat of primer.

An intermediate coat of paint and then a finish coat to add the color and final layer of protection from the environment was applied. A similar shade of silvery aluminum was chosen to match the original 19060s bridge span color.

As part of the celebration, the project team hosted a “Guess the Gallons” contest to provide an opportunity for the public to guess the number of paint gallons estimated to paint the finish coat on the Sherman Minton Bridge. In total, 12,000 gallons of paint will be used to coat the entire bridge.

Occurring in four phases, Phase 1 of the project began in September last year. Primary Phase 1 activities are painting, reconstruction on the lower eastbound deck and steel repairs as needed while the deck is removed. In November, crews reportedly performed deck patch on the Indiana and Kentucky approach bridges.

At the beginning of the year, it was announced that Phase 2 was expected to take place from early 2022 to mid-2022 for the second half of eastbound construction. Phase 3 was scheduled to start mid-2022 and finish in late 2022 for the first half of westbound construction. Phase 4 was to run from late 2022 to mid-2023 for the second half of westbound construction.

Once completed, the rehabilitation project is expected to add up to 30 years of life to the bridge. Currently, the Sherman Minton Bridge is celebrating its 60th birthday, with the project team offering trivia challenges for the community to win a $60 gift card from local businesses.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Bridges; Bridges; Coating failure; Coating Materials; Failure analysis; Health & Safety; NA; North America; Ongoing projects; Paint; Program/Project Management; Quality Control; Rehabilitation/Repair

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