Interstates/Highways and Transportation, Distribution & Logistics

Governor: Ohio River bridge repairs to take months

September 30, 2011

Work to repair an ailing Ohio River bridge shut down between Kentucky and Indiana will cost about $20 million, and it will take about six months to fix and reopen the heavily traveled span, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said Friday.

Daniels said during a press conference that steel plating will be installed on the nearly 50-year-old Sherman Minton Bridge linking Louisville and New Albany along Interstate 64.

Gov. Steve Beshear of Kentucky, who joined Daniels in announcing plans for the double-decker bridge, said the states will find the money to get the repairs done.

"This is a top priority," Beshear said at a press conference in New Albany. "This is a crisis. This moves to the top of the list in Kentucky and Indiana."

Daniels said the project will be bid quickly with the aim of starting work as soon as possible.

"We're going to fix every single defect that was found, then apply this additional sheathing end to end," Daniels said.

Daniels said the repairs are estimated to last 20 years.

"Dollars and cents were always an afterthought. Safety first, speed second," Daniels said. "But, I like what I'm hearing on the dollars and cents."

The bridge closed Sept. 9 after an approximately 2-1/2-inch-long crack was found in a steel support beam.

The bridge had been used by more than 80,000 vehicles a day. Traffic has shifted to the area's two other Ohio River bridges, causing longer rush-hour delays.

Indiana transportation officials had previously said the damage was not extensive enough to warrant a full replacement of the bridge.

Inspection crews have worked almost around the clock doing a top-to-bottom examination of the bridge.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said in a statement that having the bridge closed for six more months will be inconvenient, but "it's better than the alternative of having the bridge closed for years."

The bridge has drawn a steady stream of political leaders from both states, and its closure has come as President Barack Obama pushes his jobs program, which would spend billions of dollars on infrastructure.

Obama highlighted his jobs plan with a recent visit to another outdated Ohio River bridge that connects Ohio and Kentucky.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood toured the deserted Sherman Minton Bridge a week ago and said federal officials are committed to getting it reopened.

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