After a month of closure, InDOT reopens I-65 NB at Wildcat Creek bridge

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I-65 bridge closure opening

In a press release issued Sunday, September 6, the Indiana Department of Transportation notified truckers and motorists that it had begun reopening the northbound lanes of I-65 between Lebanon and Lafayette. Walsh Construction Company had completed repairs and load tested the Wildcat Creek bridge near Lafayette as Indiana Department of Transportation inspectors observed.

As noted in the tweet from InDOT’s East Central division above noted, the opening was well in place as of yesterday, Sept. 8.

“I am grateful for the Indiana Department of Transportation’s around-the-clock efforts to reopen the interstate ahead of schedule,” said Governor Mike Pence. “We appreciate the patience of citizens in communities that have been affected. Construction in this area and others is ongoing and we urge motorists to be mindful as they travel our highways.”

InDOT noted that construction indeed does continue — construction projects and lane closures that had been suspended on the alternate routes will resume within the next few days, noted the press release. I-65 itself remains an active work zone as contractors widen and rehabilitate the interstate near Lafayette.

Planned I-65 lane closures for construction will continue at night, when traffic is lighter, between State Road 38 (Exit 168) and State Road 25 (Exit 175). Drivers may use U.S. 52, State Road 28 and U.S. 231 as an alternate route to avoid the nighttime lane closures.

INDOT technicians continue to monitor pavement condition and traffic flow, and will restore normal signal timing patterns on the detour route as appropriate. The temporary traffic signals at U.S. 231 and State Road 28 in Romney and U.S. 52 and State Road 47 near Thorntown will remain in place until traffic resumes normal patterns and INDOT can perform a new engineering study.

The completion of work on the sinking Wildcat Creek bridge piers was completed slightly ahead of the expected schedule by the Walsh company of Crown Point, also contracted for the I-65 widening project. When construction crews drove steel piles into nearby soils to widen the existing bridge 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 bubbled 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.

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The company then stabilized the riverbank bridge pier with a process that has been used effectively with other bridges around the country:

  1. Steel casings were drilled through the footer of the existing pier.
  2. Grout was injected to fill and densify the sandy artesian well below.
  3. Twelve high-strength, small-diameter “micropiles” were installed 67 feet deep into the soil.
  4. A steel-reinforced concrete block was poured at ground level to transfer loads from the existing pier to the new micropiles.
  5. The bridge beams were jacked upward to their normal height and steel supports were installed.

INDOT, the Federal Highway Administration and engineering consultants reviewed the repair plans and inspected the construction to ensure the repairs were safe. Purdue University and contractor sensors will remain in place for regular monitoring of both the northbound and southbound bridges.

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