Damaged bridge closes I-65 northbound again near Lafayette

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A section of northbound I-65 in Tippecanoe County closed again Friday due to a damaged bridge. It's closed near the 173 mile marker. Drivers should use US 52 as a detour.

The road had reopened Wednesday evening after emergency bridge work.

The northbound lanes of the interstate were closed Tuesday between SR 26 and SR 25 so INDOT could investigate the bridge over Wildcat Creek. It was re-opened Wednesday evening around 8:15, but not all at once. It started opening up at the 172 exit (SR-26), then exit 168 (SR-38), then the 158 exit (SR-28), and finally exit 146 (SR-47).  Troopers led traffic from the 141 milemarker up the interstate to get traffic flowing.

Temporary steel supports were made overnight and trucked in from Indianapolis. They are now in place and will be used until new bearings are made and installed.

Photos released by the department Wednesday show how much the bridge is sagging. While workers labored to complete emergency repairs and make the bridge safe, travelers were trapped in traffic as drivers clogged detour routes. The tie-ups stretched for miles on US 52 through Boone, Clinton and Tippecanoe counties, then on SR 28, before the detour delivers drivers back to Interstate 65.

"It's taken us 33 minutes to go seven miles," said driver Abby Sutton.

Some frustrated drivers set out to find a shortcut. But that didn't work out so well for Susie Hivnor.

"I am on the road thinking I am going back to 65 and then I am right back to where I started. I'm not the only one. We all went in a big circle," she said.

Engineers closed the bridge late Tuesday afternoon. Construction workers adding a third lane to the structure felt unusual movements on the bridge as traffic moved over it.

"As they were working on one of the piers, the roller bearings fell from this one pier," said Debbie Calder with INDOT.

Four of the five steel bearings fell out. They sit between the steel beams and the concrete pier, allowing the bridge to expand and contract with changing temperatures.

The bridge is 46 years old. INDOT engineers suspect its age, combined with the heavy construction work, caused the bearings to fail. They don't have enough information yet to know whether this is an isolated problem, or a warning sign of similar problems with other bridges.

"What we learn from this we will use on our safety practices, statewide system, and keep things that happened with this bridge in mind when we are inspecting and looking at other projects," Calder said.

Inspection reports

The last inspection of the northbound bridge from the U.S. Department of Transportation 2012 report found it was eligible for rehabilitation. The bridge's supports were rated in "poor" condition. The part of the bridge that supports traffic was in "fair" condition.

That 2012 report found more than 5,000 bridges in Indiana needed replacement or rehabilitation. You can look up any bridge in the nation by clicking here.

INDOT has released to Eyewitness News the last two inspection reports for the northbound I-65 bridge over Wildcat Creek:

To shore up the bridge, INDOT says workers will replace the rocker bearings with reinforced rubber pads, widen the bridge and replace the concrete deck, install stone along the creek banks to minimize erosion around the bridge piers and encase the bridge ends in concrete to increase durability and minimize exposure to the elements.