- Associated Press - Monday, September 7, 2015

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) - A stretch of Interstate 65 between Lebanon and Lafayette that had been closed for more than a month because of safety concerns has reopened.

Crews completed repairs and tested the bridge over Wildcat Creek and it reopened Sunday evening, the Indiana Department of Transportation announced. Gov. Mike Pence praised INDOT for getting the bridge open faster than the expected mid-September completion.

“I am grateful for the Indiana Department of Transportation’s around-the-clock efforts to reopen the interstate ahead of schedule,” he said.

The bridge shutdown highlighted the problem of decaying infrastructure in the state. Pence has said he is considering using some of the state’s $2.14 billion in reserves to pay for infrastructure improvements. He also said he’s supportive of discussions among lawmakers to make infrastructure the focus of the 2017 legislative session, when lawmakers will write a new state budget.

The bridge sunk as Walsh Construction was widening and rehabilitating I-65 as part of an $82.5 million project that began in January.

The bridge, built in 1968, was first closed on Aug. 4 and reopened the next evening after crews finished emergency structural repairs. But the state reclosed again on Aug. 7 after more problems were found.

INDOT officials said they believed work by construction crews widening I-65 to six lanes in the area about 50 miles northwest of Indianapolis may have caused part of a bridge pier to sink. The crews drove steel piles into nearby soils. INDOT believes that cause sand and water to bubble up, causing part of the bridge to sink.

The closure caused lengthy delays for drivers on a 52-mile detour. The detour followed state highways from near Lebanon around the west side of Lafayette and West Lafayette to link back up with I-65 north of those cities. It also led to lengthy traffic backups.

Construction projects and lane closures that had been suspended on the detour routes will resume within the next few days, INDOT said.

INDOT says I-65 remains an active work zone as crews widen and rehabilitate the interstate near Lafayette. Some lane closures will continue at night.

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