Low-clearance bridges pose problem for truckers in Indianapolis - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

13 Investigates

Low-clearance bridges pose problem for truckers in Indianapolis

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INDIANAPOLIS -

13 Investigates has learned that a cluster of bridges built in the 1970s sit much lower than today's standards. One of those bridges in the south split was struck again on Friday, closing the interstate for two and a half days.

Things were back to normal Monday at the I-65/I-70 south split. Trucks passing under the Virginia Avenue bridge would be hard pressed to notice a difference, but there is one. The bridge that had clearance of 14 feet last Friday is now down to 13'11".

Will Wingfield with the Indiana Department of Transportation says it's "perfectly safe" as long as everyone follows the law.

By current standards, overpasses are constructed to give 16 feet of clearance. But there are eight bridges in the south split which were constructed in the 1970s which are under 14.5 feet.

So about ten times a year, on average, a semi will slam into the top of the overpass. Some are minor scrapes, while others, as in an incident from October 2011, can start a fire.

Truck drivers who are hauling an oversized load are supposed to apply for a permit and if they do, they would be rerouted onto I465 and away from the south split.

"There are eight bridges in that area under 14.5 feet so in order to address one bridge you would have to alter multiple bridges and of course that would cost millions of dollars," said Wingfield. "The other option is that we would typically consider in this circumstance is to lower the elevation of the road. I-65 and I-70 are already recessed in that area. There are utilities that run just underneath the pavement so there is a limitation there. If we lower the elevation further potentially we would have to pump storm water from the area."

A common sense solution would be to reroute oversized loads. It sounds easy enough, but at least ten times a year it is not.

Now since steel plates had to be spliced on to the Virginia Ave. bridge, the bolts that hold them in place take up another inch - so the clearance is now down to 13 feet and 11 inches.

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