Crews Test I-65 Northbound Bridge Repairs

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. – Specialized crews working for Walsh Construction Company have been on site this week testing the solution for bridge pier settlement where I-65 northbound crosses Wildcat Creek.

Structural engineers with the Indiana Department of Transportation reviewed preliminary designs over the weekend, and continue to review new information from engineering subcontractors. Specialized geotechnical construction crews mobilized on site Sunday evening, and began installing a test micropile near the pier on Monday.

Walsh plans to install steel casings, grout and high-strength, small-diameter micropiles through the footers of the existing pier and deep into the soil. The process involves drilling steel casings through the water-tight soils, injecting grout to fill and densify the sandy soils below, and then installing the micropiles.

Test pile installation is expected to be completed today, then the grout must cure for three days. Crews will test how the micropile distributes load to the adjacent soils before finalizing the designs to repair the bridge.

Micropiles have been used effectively to stabilize other bridge piers around the country. Walsh estimates the repairs will be completed and I-65 northbound reopened between Lebanon and Lafayette by mid-September.

In addition, Walsh and Purdue University have installed a variety of sensors to ensure safety for traffic using the southbound bridge and monitor any movement on the northbound bridge.

What happened INDOT awarded an $82.8 million design-build contract in January to Walsh Construction Company of Crown Point 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 piles pierced the water-tight soils to a sandy layer with water under pressure. Sand and/or water percolated up from beneath the bridge pier, causing it to tilt. Structural engineers monitoring the riverbank pier noticed the pier settling and tilting, and ordered the bridge closed on Aug. 7 in the interests of safety.

Detour I-65 northbound merges to one lane and is diverted onto U.S. 52 at Exit 141 north of Lebanon. The northbound lanes are closed to all traffic between U.S. 52 and State Road 25 (Exit 175). The I-65 southbound lanes remain open within the work zone, INDOT urges drivers to allow extra following distance and stay alert.

The detour over U.S. 52, State Road 28 and U.S. 231 maximizes use of four-lane roads and minimizes traffic signals. To improve traffic flow on the detour, INDOT:

  • Activated temporary signals on Sunday at the State Road 28 intersections with U.S. 52 and U.S. 231 in Tippecanoe County,
  • Removed the stop sign for U.S. 231 traffic on Tuesday at State Road 18 in White County,
  • Installed signage and arrow boards to clearly mark the detour,
  • Posted on dynamic message signs as far south as the Louisville metro area,
  • Suspended construction where the detour rejoins I-65 in White County, and
  • Continues to monitor traffic flow and adjust U.S. 231 signal timings.

The measures listed above have greatly improved traffic flow since the initial closure, and the detour now adds about 9 miles and 25 minutes to northbound I-65. INDOT thanks the motoring public for their continued patience.

While construction continues on many state highways in the area, INDOT has pulled back barrels and barricades to the greatest extent possible on three other routes that maximize four-lane highways:

  • I-74 west to I-57 north in Illinois
  • I-74 west to State Road 63 north to U.S. 41 north to U.S. 24 east
  • Keystone Parkway north to U.S. 31 north to U.S. 35 north to U.S. 24 west

Daily round-trip rail service also is available between Indianapolis and Chicago with stops in Crawfordsville, Lafayette, Rensselaer and Dyer. Tickets are available at Amtrak.com, 800-USA-RAIL and other sales channels, including Amtrak mobile apps, and are subject to discounts and rewards programs.

Stay updated There are several ways that drivers can stay updated on the closure:

About Brian Scott

I play on the radio from 7 am -1 pm weekdays on 98.9 FM WYRZ and WYRZ.org. Follow me on twitter @WYRZBrianScott or e-mail me at brian@wyrz.org.

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