Sherman Minton Bridge Cracks

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels closed the Sherman Minton Bridge on Friday, September 9, 2011 until further notice after construction crews found several fractures in the main load-bearing structure during a routine inspection. The bridge will remain closed until the breaks can be repaired and their cause can be determined, although many suspect the recent East Coast earthquake played a role by shaking the bridge’s foundation. In the meantime, students and workers are exploring alternative means to traverse the river as needed.

For those utilizing the Clark Memorial Bridge, the key seems to be avoiding rush hour. Many commuters are sacrificing their sleep to leave up to an hour earlier than normal in hopes of making it to their destination on time. Others with more flexible schedules are leaving later in the morning—around 10 a.m.—to avoid congestion. However, it all seems to be in the timing as to who gets stuck where and when.

Although many have reported heavy gridlock on the Second Street Bridge during the morning commute, others swear by the route. “The [Second Street] Bridge was pretty open, and it only took me about 15 minutes extra to get to Louisville,” reported Mandi Roberts, a resident of Clarksville, Ind. who makes her commute around 7 a.m. every morning.

The Indiana Department of Transportation is also trying out alternative means of making morning and evening commutes as smooth as possible. While the Clark Memorial Bridge will continue to have two lanes open in both directions every evening, there will be three lanes dedicated for Southbound motorists every morning from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Indiana construction crews are also making changes to expand the ramps connecting Interstate 265 in New Albany with Interstate 64 to two lanes to accommodate ease traffic. The construction work will occur in-between the morning and evening rush hour commutes.

Despite this work, the realization that a widely traveled bridge had begun to collapse under the radar of everyone has left many people understandably shaken. “This is why I hate bridges!” Jennifer Neal of Louisville exclaimed when informed of the situation. “Just think of what could have happened if [the bridge] hadn’t been scheduled for the inspection!”

Hearing that a fracture critical—or a bridge that does not contain redundant supporting elements and thus is in imminent danger of a collapse if just one of those key supports fails—bridge such as the Sherman Minton was developing several cracks has caused many to remember the ill-fated I-35W Mississippi River Bridge. The Mississippi River Bridge collapsed suddenly during rush hour’s gridlocked traffic on Wednesday, August 1, 2007, killing 13 and injuring 145. Luckily, the fractures were caught before such a tragedy could arise again.

Although many hope for the closure to continue for no longer than one month, Jeffersonville Mayor Tom Galliganannounced Sunday, September 11 that he expects the bridge, which carries Interstate 64 over the Ohio River, to remain closed for at least six months. The Indiana Department of Transportation has yet to give an estimate for reopening the bridge.

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