LAHOOD: One Sherman Minton Bridge crack repaired; no timetable for re-opening
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Officials say the crack that closed the Sherman Minton Bridge is repaired. It had been there since the bridge's construction in 1962. But there are other cracks still being inspected, and there's been no timetable set for when the bridge might be reopened, and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Friday, "This bridge is not safe."
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said the one crack being repaired does not mean there aren't other cracks that could be a danger. He said a report on the bridge's inspection will take another 10 days to two weeks.
The announcement earlier Friday that the bridge will not have to be replaced brought some new optimism to those trying to cope with the situation.
"It's a serious matter," said Ray LaHood, who toured the bridge on Friday. He said he will make sure the governors of Indiana and Kentucky, along with the states' congressional delegations, stay informed as to any progress on how to pay for repairs.
LaHood also used his appearance to make a push for President Obama's jobs bill. "We're focused like a laser beam on putting Americans to work," he said. He said crumbling infrastructure is a symbol of the challenges facing the country, and that passing the jobs bill could provide progress in solving that problem.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (R) agreed that aging bridges need to be repaired now, but proposed a different method of finding the money for such projects. He has presented a bill that would take money being used for highway beautification and divert it to fixing infrastructure. Senator Paul also said he does not believe this is a partisan issue.
Kentucky Third District Representative John Yarmuth (D), along with Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer (D), also attended the press availability and agreed that the bridge is a top priority.
Earlier, Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) Commissioner Michael B. Cline said the agency has learned enough in its ongoing testing and assessment of the Sherman-Minton Bridge to rule out that a full replacement of the bridge will be needed. INDOT, together with Kentucky Transportation Cabinet officials and contractors working on the bridge, expect to complete testing and analysis by early October.
"We won't know with 100 percent certainty as to what the repair solution will be until our testing is complete, but nothing we have seen indicates that replacing the bridge is necessary," said Cline.
Replacement would have been the most costly and time consuming of conclusions for addressing problems plaguing the bridge. INDOT expects to have cost estimates for the repairs and estimated time to make them after inspectors and engineers have completed their analysis.
Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell released a statement saying, "This is a positive sign for Kentucky motorists, businesses and taxpayers. Once we receive the final assessment from transportation officials, we'll know the projected costs of the project and the timing to complete the repairs so that work can begin to get the bridge safely reopened as soon as possible."
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels ordered the Interstate 64 bridge over the Ohio River between New Albany and Louisville closed on September 9 after inspectors discovered the crack in a critical load-carrying element of the bridge. Structural engineers from the state and private sectors have been conducting ongoing maintenance and examinations of the bridge since early this year.
"Keeping with Governor Daniels' directive to move quickly yet safely, INDOT will meet with potential contractors next week so we can be ready to start repairs and reopen the bridge at the first possible moment," said Cline. "We don't know the exact fix yet, but we want to discuss options with contractors and get their input."
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