Indianapolis paying $700,000 to inspect culverts

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INDIANAPOLIS - 13 Investigates the city's neglect in inspecting critical culverts, like the one that collapsed during heavy rain last month.

Now the city is spending thousands to search for possible problems.

13 Investigates takes you under the road and into one of over a thousand culverts across the city to witness something that's been largely ignored for 15 years.

The last time the culverts were inspected was 1995.

"Prior to the RebuildIndy Program initiative, it's our understanding the city didn't have a culvert regular maintenance plan," explained Department of Public Works Communications Director Molly Deuberry on the lapse in inspections.

Built to channel rain under bridges and roadways, the importance of culverts was nearly forgotten until a recent critical reminder. A busy stretch of Keystone Avenue was shut down where the road buckled after high rains eroded the base of the culvert.

The Department of Public Works says the location was on its inspection list in March, but a rainstorm last month got there first.

"It was not a culvert that was in such terrible disrepair that it just needed down anyways. It was an unexpected rising of the floodwaters that happened in Haverstick Creek," said Deuberry.

The city is paying four private engineering firms a total of $700,000 to give 40-year-old culverts like one 13 Investigates visited a twice-over for settling, cracking and erosion.

Inside, the inspector noted separated joints and minor rust holes, cracks in the exterior and crumbling stone. The culvert was rated "fair" with the most important finding hidden inside.

"The joint separation could show a loss of fill from above and the roadway starts sagging or whatnot," he explained.

The city has requested completed inspection reports by the end of next week. DPW will then prioritize the list by year's end and determine the costs, but no work is expected to begin until next year, barring the unexpected.

"If we find any culverts that we think need immediate action, we will definitely take that action," said Deuberry.

13 Investigates has learned the city awarded a $600,000 contract to Schutt Lookabill Co Inc  for repairs to the 80th Street culvert.

DPW is trying to get disaster relief from FEMA to offset that cost. The agency must convince the government that the damage was the result of a catastrophic weather event, not from a lack of upkeep.