LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – After receiving complaints about noise on the Kennedy Bridge, a Kentucky Transportation Cabinet inspector visited the span in May and noticed an “audible rattle” and part of the pavement bouncing with the circulation.
A week later, other inspectors discovered five missing bolts where conductors run over a strip resembling interlocking fingers near the Indiana state border. It is one of the four joints that connect the concrete slabs of the bridge deck, allowing the structure to expand and contract.
Two weeks later, on June 7, a special examination revealed that another bolt was missing from the same area and two more bolts that could be removed by hand. Two other bolts were sheared.
These details, included in inspection reports obtained under the Kentucky Open Records Act, provided insight into the condition of the 57-year-old Ohio River Interstate Passage before officials of the ‘State did not close three lanes indefinitely last month while waiting for new bolts to be manufactured installed.
But reports also show that there were “construction errors” at the expansion joint that the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet became aware of shortly after the span was renovated. In fact, just two months after Kentucky completed a $ 22 million Kennedy Bridge deck overhaul in 2016, an inspector discovered the joint was misaligned and moved when trucks passed over it. The source of a âclicking noiseâ at the gasket was not located.
Despite repeated problems with the bridge joints, inspectors have rated the Kennedy Bridge in “good” condition since 2017. And although the lanes remain closed to prevent possible damage from vehicles passing through the faulty joint, the Cabinet transport says the structural integrity of the bridge is not at risk.
Still, scheduled repairs and previous work on the bridge’s joints raise new questions about the effectiveness of the much-celebrated 2016 redesign, especially as traffic on the span is about half of what it was. previously.
Among them: Why was the Kentucky state government not informed earlier about air pockets under the joints which the Transportation Cabinet says contributed to the bolts loosening or breaking ? Why was no action taken to correct the misalignment as soon as it was discovered at the end of 2016?
The Transport Cabinet declined an interview for this story. But in written responses to questions, he indicated that air pockets, or voids, developed when the concrete deck was poured. They were not “visible or detectable” through the metal decking where the concrete was added, the statement said.
These voids contributed to multiple broken or missing bolts in the joint, depending on the condition. âIt does NOT seem like all the joints have voids,â he said.
Walsh Construction completed work on the Kennedy Bridge and other parts of the downtown Ohio River Bridges project under an $ 860 million contract with Kentucky in late 2016. The Transportation Firm has stated that there was no warranty for the Kennedy or Lincoln bridges.
Meanwhile, the firm’s response said the misaligned finger seal “wasn’t alarming” and didn’t necessarily indicate problems with the bolts in the assembly. The problem could have been caused by temperature changes or the way the frame below was placed, he said.
The renovations five years ago were part of the $ 2.3 billion bridge project, which added a new Lincoln I-65 bridge along the Kennedy Bridge and upstream Lewis and Clark between Prospect, Ky., and Utica, Ind., in addition to a new interchange near downtown Louisville. These three level crossings have become part of the RiverLink toll network.
Redesigned to handle one-way traffic on I-65 South, the Kennedy received new pavement, new beams, new rails, and new joints – including joints now ready for repair.
By announcing this “in-depth renovation” in early 2015, the then governor. Steve Beshear has promised a âmore complete and more sustainable overhaulâ of the span. A Transport Cabinet press release said the work would eliminate the need for “major repairs and traffic disruptions on the Kennedy Bridge for decades.”
There is no timeline for damaged gasket repairs as these depend on “custom bolts” that have not yet been manufactured or delivered. When asked how the state plans to make sure the new bolts don’t come loose, he replied, âThe next repair will include one type of bolt that goes through the entire thickness of the bridge, with a nut underneath. the bridge, as rather than being anchored in the bridge.
The work will be the last necessary for the expansion joints on the Kennedy in the years following the addition of the new parts of the bridge.
In April 2018, crews carried out temporary repairs after a seal was dislodged. The joint is further south than the one with the recently discovered missing bolts.
In August of that year, an inspector visited the bridge for another assessment, writing: âThe finger joints had multiple problems due to construction errors, such as loose anchor bolts and voids. under the finger joints.
The inspector observed that the finger joint that ruptured earlier that year had an approximately five foot section of “broken fingers that were covered with a patch of asphalt.” This seal is extremely noisy under the load of heavy trucks.
There were also “construction misalignments” and “exposed shear studs” which could be seen under the finger joints.
Then, in November 2018, transportation officials carried out a special inspection to “take a close look” at the four finger joints of the bridge. This led to a massive $ 788,100 project about a year later, in December 2019, that included removing and replacing bolts on all joints and making other repairs, according to construction documents.
In August 2020, about eight months after the repair project, an inspector found the joints in “satisfactory” condition. But he found that a section of the finger joint near the Indiana border – again, the one now under repair – was loose, causing an “audible rattle.”
This joint is not far from the Harbors Condominiums in Jeffersonville, Indiana. From his 10th floor condo, Russell Johnson can see the bridge and hear its traffic.
Johnson, the chairman of the condo board of directors, has lived at Harbors since 2012. After the Kennedy Bridge renovations in 2016, he said the noise was slightly louder than before – an increase he attributes to faster speeds.
Then, he said, it got “really bad” about three or four months ago.
âIt made enough noise that if you lived on this side of the building you couldn’t sleep,â he said. “It only really happened when a heavy load fell, and then it just hammered the bridge.”
Residents of the condo then contacted the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. In an email provided to WDRB News, Johnson’s wife Sandi wrote that the noise from the bridge was “new and different”.
She received an email in return, saying her concern was being passed on to the supervisor overseeing 1,345 facilities in eight counties.
âThe bridge itself is structurally sound,â the email said. “The KYTC Bridge Inspector will assess the joints to ensure they are functioning properly.”
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