InDOT: I-65 NB Wildcat Creek bridge projected to remain closed through much of September

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Updated Sep 9, 2015
I-65 NB northbound closure

UPDATE Sept. 9, 2015: The bridge and length of I-65 NB closed reopened the week of Sept. 7, 2015. More information on ongoing construction related to the I-65 widening project in that section of Indiana I-65 at this link.  

Original story follows:
After Overdrive‘s prior report went to press last week on the testing of the northbound span of the I-65 bridges over Wildcat Creek near Lafayette, which has re-routed NB traffic from the highway, the Indiana Department of Transportation reported Friday that contractors Walsh Construction Company estimate the solution to bridge pier settlement would reopen the road in mid-September. NB I-65 remains closed between Lebanon and Lafayette — the closure has been in placed since August 7, a result of observation of riverbank pier tilting by structural engineers.

Engineers and soils experts with InDOT, Walsh and the Federal Highway Administration have identified the solution is to install high-strength, small-diameter steel casings with rods and grout, known as micropiles, through the footers of the existing pier and deep into the soil. Micropiles have been used effectively to stabilize other bridge piers around the country.

What happened
“Since we closed the bridge, reopening it safely has been our top priority,” said InDOT Commissioner Brandye Hendrickson. “We are confident the issues are related to construction activities, and the remedy will provide a safe and long-term solution.”

InDOT awarded an $82.8 million contract in January to Walsh Construction Co. of Crown Point to widen and rehabilitate I-65 from State Road 38 to State Road 25 in Lafayette. Construction crews drove steel piles into nearby soils to widen the existing piers and sheet piling to work below the Wildcat Creek waterline.

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 on Aug. 7 in the interests of safety.

More detail on detours
I-65 northbound merges to one lane and is diverted onto U.S. 52 at Exit 141 north of Lebanon. The northbound lanes are closed to all traffic between U.S. 52 and State Road 25 (Exit 175). The I-65 southbound lanes remain open within the work zone.

The detour over U.S. 52, State Road 28 and U.S. 231 maximizes use of four-lane roads and minimizes traffic signals. To improve traffic flow on the detour, InDOT pursued the following:

  • Activated temporary signals on Sunday at the State Road 28 intersections with U.S. 52 and U.S. 231 in Tippecanoe County,
  • Removed the stop sign for U.S. 231 traffic on Tuesday at State Road 18 in White County,
  • Installed signage and arrow boards to clearly mark the detour,
  • Posted on dynamic message signs as far south as the Louisville metro area,
  • Suspended construction where the detour rejoins I-65 in White County, and
  • Continues to monitor traffic flow and adjust U.S. 231 signal timings.

The measures listed above have greatly improved traffic flow since the initial closure, and the detour now adds about 9 miles and 25 minutes to northbound I-65, InDOT says.

While construction continues on many state highways in the area, InDOT has pulled back barrels and barricades to the greatest extent possible on three other routes that maximize four-lane highways:

  • I-74 west to I-57 north in Illinois
  • I-74 west to State Road 63 north to U.S. 41 north to U.S. 24 east
  • Keystone Parkway north to U.S. 31 north to U.S. 35 north to U.S. 24 west