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INDOT noted concerns about closed Lafayette bridge in 2005

August 9, 2015
An Indiana Department of Transportation report shows an Interstate 65 bridge near Lafayette that was closed indefinitely because of safety concerns was identified as having substructural problems a decade ago.
 
INDOT spokeswoman Debbie Calder says the department has not yet isolated the specific cause of the safety concern that caused it to close the northbound bridge over Wildcat Creek bridge on Friday, just two days after reopening it. Experts in soils and geotechnical science from INDOT, Federal Highway Administration and Walsh Construction are being brought in to evaluate the bridge.

INDOT says testing may be needed to identify the proper course of action for the steel girder bridge built in 1969 and was reconstructed in 1988.

The Journal & Courier reported that inspector Sherwood Garrison cited concern about piers in the bridge in 2005, saying that bearings at the top of the steel components that support the bridge deck had a significant tilt to the north that worsened when air temperatures fell.

In 2012, Garrison flagged the potential for a critical problem due to the extreme tilt of the rocker bearings on a different pier.

"If the pier were to rotate and the rocker bearings fall out of position, a serious to critical condition would exist," he wrote.

None of the inspection reports called for repairs.

The bridge was closed Tuesday when construction crews working on a state project to widen I-65 to six lanes between Indiana 25 and Indiana 38 noticed structural problems. After observing unusual movements, they discovered that some rocker bearings that relieve pressure on the bridge had fallen out.

The interstate reopened Wednesday night, after more than a day of repairs. INDOT said in a news release Friday, "Structural engineers monitoring the I-65 northbound bridge over Wildcat Creek since it reopened on Wednesday noticed movement in the same vertical riverbank pier and ordered the bridge closed."

Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski said he expects the bridge to be closed for a while, causing traffic backups in the city.
 
"We certainly were glad that there was not some kind of tragedy with that bridge and that nobody got hurt," he said.
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