The closed Interstate 65 bridge between Lebanon and Lafayette is not expected to reopen until mid-September, state transportation officials said Friday morning.
The northbound bridge over Wildcat creek has been closed since Aug. 7, when structural engineers noticed a riverbank pier settling and tilting.
Engineers and soil experts with the Indiana Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration and Walsh Construction Co. of Crown Point have concluded 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.
INDOT Commissioner Brandye Hendrickson said she believes recent highway construction in the area led to the bridge problem.
INDOT awarded an $82.8 million contract in January to Walsh 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 bridge closing has created big traffic backups in the Lafayette area and for those traveling from Indianapolis to the Chicago area. To avoid the bridge, I-64 northbound merged to one lane and is diverted onto U.S. 52 at Exit 141 north of Lebanon. I-65 southbound remains open.
INDOT said it has taken several steps to try to improve traffic flow in the detour, but travelers should still expect to travel an extra nine miles and 25 minutes on northbound I-65.