The Sherman Minton Bridge is a unique double-deck, through-arch span over the Ohio River between Louisville, Kentucky and Indiana. It carries Interstate 64 and U.S. Route 150. The bridge, which is considered fracture-critical in that a failure of one component could lead to the breakdown of the entire span, was closed to all traffic on September 10, 2011 due to cracks in two supporting beams for the arch.
Prior to the advent of the interstate highway system, only two automobile bridges crossed the Ohio River at Louisville: the Clark Memorial Bridge and the Kentucky and Indiana Terminal Bridge. Arthur Grafton commissioned two studies conducted in 1952 and 1953, which recommended that two new bridges be constructed at Jeffersonville and New Albany, Indiana.(1) Financing the bridges was nearly uniformly against tolling the spans, both by residents in Indiana and in Louisville. But due to a lack of state funding, no bridge was ever completed past the proposal stage until the interstate highway system was announced by President Eisenhower.
In 1956, design of the Sherman Minton Bridge was awarded to Hazelet & Erdal of Louisville.(1) The location was chosen as it would connect downtown Louisville and the western neighborhoods to New Albany and a future interstate highway westward. Financing would come mostly from the federal government: 90% would be funded on the federal level, with the remaining being paid for by Indiana.
Construction on the six-lane bridge began in June 1959 and was completed in August 1962 at a cost of $14.8 million.(1) The six-lane through-arch bridge was double decked and was designated Interstate 64.
In December 1962, Indiana Governor Welsh dedicated the bridge for former United States Senator and Supreme Court Justice Sherman Minton, a native of New Albany who had helped obtain funding for the Ohio River crossing.
The bridge was awarded the American Institute of Steel Construction’s most beautiful long-span bridge of the year in 1961.(1)
On September 10, 2011, the Sherman Minton Bridge was closed to all traffic when cracks were found in the bridge’s superstructure.(2) The decision for the immediate closure came at the unanimous opinions from four engineers that reviewed the findings from a repair project. During a repair to correct some non-structural deficiencies, four cracks in two beams were discovered in supports that connect the double arches to the horizontal spans below the bridge deck.
Indiana officials were notified earlier in the year by the Federal Highway Administration about the potential issues of “cracking and toughness” involving the steel used during the construction of the Interstate 64 bridge.(2)(3) Those notifications were a result from a 2009 inspection.
The Sherman Minton Bridge received good ratings during a January 19, 2007 inspection for the deck, superstructure and substructure, although it was rated functionally obsolete because it has no shoulders and does not meet current design standards.(2)
At the time of the closure, nearly 89,000 vehicles traveled the crossing.(2) Currently, traffic is detoured along Interstate 265 to Interstate 65 via the Kennedy Bridge or the Clark Memorial Bridge. The Minton span could be closed for six months until a final decision is made about the bridge’s future.
- Designation: Interstate 64, US 150
- Crosses: Ohio River
- Bridge type: Arch
- Number of lanes: 6
- Kleber, John E. “Bridges, Automobile.” The encyclopedia of Louisville. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2001. 123. Print.
- Green, Marcus. “Sherman Minton problems will take 3 weeks to diagnose, officials say.” Courier-Journal [Louisville]. 10 Sept. 2011. 12 Sept. 2011. Article.
- “Agency: Sherman Minton Bridge’s Steel More Brittle.” WLKY [Louisville]. 12 Sept. 2011. 13 Sept. 2011. Article.