LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Kentucky transportation officials took to Facebook last month after a photo shared through social media raised concerns about the safety of an interstate overpass in western Louisville.
The photo appears to show crumbling at a ramp connecting Interstate 64 East with I-264 East, also known as the Georgia Powers Expressway. Inspectors were frequently monitoring it, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Louisville district wrote in the May 4 Facebook post.
“The bridge is safe to handle traffic,” the post said, adding: “If it were deemed unsafe for traffic, we would close it.”
Indeed, the state has tried since 2002 to get the ramp replaced or repaired, and its roadway has been in “serious” condition for at least five years, according to reports obtained under Kentucky’s open records law. No part of the structure has been rated better than “satisfactory” over that time.
On Monday, the ramp was closed to traffic as part of a project that will replace it over the next three months. Hall Contracting of Kentucky Inc., was awarded a $2.2 million contract for the work.
About 48,500 vehicles use the ramp each day, according to the Transportation Cabinet’s most recent traffic count done in 2009. But since then, its overall condition has worsened during inspections that occur every two years.
The deck, which includes the interstate roadway and surface, has been rated "serious” since at least 2011. The designation from the Federal Highway Administration warns that “[l]ocal failures are possible” and “loss of section, deterioration, spalling or scour have seriously affected primary structural components.”
It is one level above being viewed as “critical” – a point at which a bridge may need to be closed.
Inspection reports repeatedly note “severe full depth deterioration scattered throughout” the deck. A 2013 report says traffic on the ramp is expected to increase as part of the Ohio River Bridges Project and recommended its “complete replacement.”
The substructure, which includes the piers and columns, has been in “poor” condition since 2011; the weight-bearing superstructure that holds up the deck was ranked “satisfactory” in 2011 and 2013 but was downgraded to “fair” last year.
The new overpass is expected to be complete by October. The Kennedy Bridge also is set to reopen around the same time, along with a ramp from the bridge connecting I-65 South to I-64 East, I-64 West and I-71 North, according to the state.
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