Kennedy Bridge expansion joint

Broken expansion joint on the Kennedy Bridge, 2021. (Courtesy: Kentucky Transportation Cabinet)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – There were more repairs this week to part of the Kennedy Bridge where a malfunctioning roadway joint caused several months of lane closures last year.

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesman Jim Hannah said inspectors noticed 10 loose bolts, two broken bolts and one missing entirely during a review on Tuesday. Work to add new bolts, washers and nuts was completed that same day, resulting in temporary lane closures, he said.

The fix is the latest to a problematic section, known as a finger joint, on the Interstate 65 bridge near the Indiana state line. It resembles interlocking fingers and is one of four joints that connect slabs on the 1960s-era bridge’s deck, letting the structure expand and contract.

Crews made separate repairs to the joint in summer 2021 and again several months later because of broken bolts.

“We will continue to monitor the finger joint until a replacement plan can be implemented,” Hannah said.

State lawmakers approved $1.3 million earlier this year for that project, which would involve adding an entirely new joint.

Several residents of The Harbours Condominiums in Jeffersonville emailed WDRB News over the weekend about a loud clanging noise on the interstate – the same noise that signaled problems with the joint last year.

John Hoselton, who has lived in the building for four years, described the sound as a “boom, boom” that starts lightly.  

“It progressively gets louder and louder and louder to the point where it's almost continuous until traffic slows down,” he said in a phone interview Thursday. By the time he emailed a reporter on Sunday, he said the sound had been “really bad” for two or three weeks.

Now a toll bridge in the RiverLink system, the Kennedy received a $22 million facelift as part of the Ohio River Bridges Project that included replacing all of the expansion joints on the bridge. But since that work, the joint near the Indiana line and others have needed unexpected repairs.

Inspection reports obtained by WDRB last year showed there were “errors in construction” at the joint that state officials knew about shortly after the span was refurbished during the bridges project. One inspector discovered the joint was not aligned and moving when trucks passed over it just months after the bridge work was done. 

State officials have said air pockets, or voids, developed when the Kennedy’s concrete deck was poured, although they were not “visible or detectable” at the time.

They said those voids contributed to the multiple broken or missing bolts at the joint near the Indiana state line – the same one that needed additional repairs this week.

Walsh Construction completed the work on the Kennedy Bridge and other downtown parts of the Ohio River Bridges Project, including the Lincoln Bridge, under an $860 million contract with Kentucky in late 2016. The Transportation Cabinet has said there was no warranty for the Kennedy or Lincoln bridges.

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