Officials say both bridges on I-75 near Laurel/Whitley line have structural problems
Cracks found in structural beams on bridges at the Laurel/Whitley line on I-75 have forced lane closures. The problems will take at least 4 to 6 weeks to correct.
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet officials say it will take four to six weeks to repair the cracks in the support beams of the Interstate 75 bridges at the Laurel/Whitley County line.
Until the repairs are made, Jonathan Dobson, a spokesperson for the transportation cabinet, said traffic across both bridges will be reduced to one lane. On the northbound side, the left lane has been closed while the right lane is closed on the southbound side.
The cracks were found during the regular inspection of the bridges, which are conducted every two years. The northbound bridge was inspected last Thursday while inspection of the southbound bridge took place on Monday. Dobson described the damage as a crack in the weld near the point where one of the cross frames connects to one of the four main support beams.
"The cross frames lend stability across the four main beams," Dobson said.
While the repairs are being expedited, Dobson said the work is specialized and that is why it is taking so long.
"The crews have all the work they can handle," Dobson said, noting the repair process will include removing the damaged portion of the cross frame and replacing it with a new section.
Until the repairs are completed, Dobson said vehicles weighing more than 80,000 pounds, or wider than 10 feet are prohibited from using the bridges. Such vehicles are being detoured off of the interstate and around the Corbin-Bypass.
In addition, Dobson noted expected increases in traffic in the area during the weekend of the NASCAR race at Bristol, Tenn. during the weekend of Aug. 25 and Labor Day weekend, Sept. 1-3.
Traffic delays should be expected during those periods. To help alleviate that, Dobson is urging motorist to use the Corbin Bypass or another alternate route.
Dobson was adamant that there is no danger of collapse, noting that engineers have the authority to order the bridge(s) closed to traffic if such a danger existed. He pointed out the recent closure of the bridge carrying traffic from Interstate 64 across the Ohio River at Louisville.
"If there was any such danger, engineers would not hesitate to shut the bridges down," Dobson said.
While the bridges are 42 years old, Dobson said there is no reason they can't continue to be used with regular maintenance and repairs. In addition, changes may be made to weight restrictions on the bridge to expand their useful life.
"We have some bridges in the state transportation system that are more than 100 years old," Dobson said.
The engineers have the option to order the bridges undergo inspections more often.
"We have bridges within the system that are inspected at a more advanced pace," Dobson said.
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