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Fairfield Causeway Bridge closing for summer

By John Estridge, Editor

This summer vehicular traffic will not be able to cross the lake along Fairfield Causeway Road due to work on the Fairfield Causeway Bridge.

As of press time, the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) has not made public an official detour.

And boat traffic will also be negatively affected by the repairs.

Boat traffic will be funneled between piers of whatever part of the bridge where construction won't be occurring at that time. The minimum width of the channel is 50 feet, according to construction documents. However, due to existing water restrictions, the safety channel may be under the center span during the entire construction.

“Channelization is anticipated to pass underneath the center span but may pass underneath other spans as necessary to prevent watercraft from passing under active construction,” reads the construction contract Dave O'Mara Contractor Inc. has with the Indiana Department of Transportation.

“If it is unavoidable for the watercraft to pass under active construction, the contractor will utilize a spotter. The spotter will then hold or release boaters to travel under the bridge as safety allows,” the contract reads.

The channel will be marked by lighted buoys. Signs will also be placed along the channel path warning boaters in advance of the marked channel.

Also, the Liberty Volunteer Fire Department and the Brookville Volunteer Fire Department will respond to fire calls on the east side of the lake within the Blooming Grove Volunteer Fire Department’s area. BGVFD’s station is located at Blooming Grove west of the lake. Thus, the BGVFD will not be able to readily access property on the other side of the lake.

Work is to begin soon on the only bridge across Brookville Lake in Franklin County. O'Mara's low bid for the project was $1.92 million.

The federal government is paying for 80 percent of the project with the county paying for the other 20 percent plus an amount for the Franklin County Water Association (FCWA). FC's total is $772,720. Also, the county has to pay 100 percent of any change orders during the construction.

Vehicular traffic will be banned from the bridge during construction, which is supposed to last until October. Vehicular raffic will follow a detour.

Fairfield Causeway Bridge is a pin-and-hangar bridge. Those will be changed; steel beams will be painted; and the driving surface will be replaced. Another feature of the construction work is the hanging of a pipe carrying water for the FCWA. Cost for that is $298,000. The county is paying for the work, but it is to be completely reimbursed by the FCWA.

Pin-and-hangar bridges are controversial. A pin-and-hangar bridge, the Mianus River Bridge, in Connecticut along Interstate-95 collapsed in 1983 killing three people and seriously injuring another three people.

Rust within a pin was a contributing factor in the collapse as it caused a force on the corresponding hangar, which was beyond design limits for the retaining clamps, according to the National Transportation Safety Report on the failure. One hanger failed, meaning the portion of the deck was just supported by three hangars. When two semis and a car entered onto the damaged section of deck, it collapsed into the river 70 feet below.

Luckily for the rest of the people who usually use that part of I-95, the catastrophe occurred at 1:30 a.m. on June 28.

It was further found in the catastrophe, road crews doing maintenance on the deck 10 years prior to the collapse, blocked drains to do their maintenance work. The crews failed to unblock the drains after the work was complete.

Standing water allowed rainwater to leak down through the pin bearings, causing them to rust. The outer bearings were fracture-critical and non-redundant, according to the report. It was a design flaw. Also, it said the inspection process for the state of Connecticut was flawed as there were only 12 engineers to inspect all of the state's bridges.

The replacement bridge, which was finished in 1992, does not use the pin-and-hangar design.

After the bridge collapse, other bridges with the pin-and-hangar design were retrofitted to create redundancies to the assembly.