Kentucky conducts reviews on aging bridges

Samantha Villanueva
Staff writer

Photo courtesy of the Kentucky Department of Transportation

The Kentucky Department of Transportation is completing a round of statewide bridge inspections following the discovery of weakening steel on a Louisville, Ky., bridge.

Keith Todd, district I public information officer for the Kentucky transportation cabinet, said the administration caught wind of the T1 steel problem when the Sherman Minton Bridge, the I-64 connector between Kentucky and Indiana over the Ohio River, was closed off for some time due to cracks appearing during an inspection.

Inspections on other key bridges are due to similar findings.

The Federal Highway Administration declared the structures of some of Kentucky’s bridges must be looked over. This is after the steel most of them are built of, T1 steel, has been found to turn brittle as time goes on.

According to the United States Transportation Agency, more than 25 percent of the countries’ bridges are “rated as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.”

Because of the increased cost of building materials, low funds and the travel demands, 30 percent of the 600,000 bridges in the United States have lasted longer than the 50 years their plans originally laid out.

All bridges in Kentucky undergo routine inspections every two years.

Bridges needing repair have the inspections every year, according to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Public Affairs office.

Todd said the administration has been quick to take action.

“Because of the cracks in Louisville, we came to the conclusion that the problem was the T1 steel,” he said. “We realized it was probably a safe bet to review the plans of the other bridges in the group, which are a total of eight bridges.”

One of those bridges the I-24 bridge at Metropolis.

Christina Hall, junior from Paducah, Ky., said she was glad the bridge is getting some attention.

“This is reassuring the safety of our roads and people in Paducah and Metropolis,” she said. “It helps me feel better about living in Paducah, knowing that if I decide to travel out of the city to Illinois, I’ll be safe.”

Todd said inspectors testing how much longer the TI steel – used mainly for connecting two larger steel pieces to create a long connection – will last and fix any discovered cracks. The steel is used in other local bridges such as the Henderson Bridge.

“The steel was largely used in 1960 and 1970, and while it is strong, it is also brittle as well, as we have seen on the Sherman Milton Bridge up in Louisville,” Todd said.

Indiana repaired its side of the bridge through a borderline retrofitting of river bridges, Todd said.

The Indiana side of the bridge was renovated 10 years after the initial construction was completed. Todd went on to say that, though the bridges are undergoing inspections, it is strictly reassuring the safety of the bridges for the public.

“Right now, there are no on-set problems besides the cracks that we have seen so far,” he said. “This is mainly a precautionary step to make sure the people of Paducah and Illinois do not have this worry.”

Said Todd: “Our main reason for making sure the bridges are safe enough for the public and making sure those bridges last as long as possible.”

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