(Reuters) - Repairs will cost $20 million and take six months to complete on a key bridge connecting southern Indiana with Louisville, Kentucky that was abruptly closed three weeks ago because of a serious crack in a beam, the two states said on Friday.
The Sherman Minton Bridge over the Ohio River -- which carried 80,000 vehicles per day -- was closed to traffic on September 9 and ordered to undergo extensive testing after the crack running the length of the 1,600 foot span was found during routine maintenance and inspection.
Three weeks of testing uncovered weld defects at numerous locations and confirmed closing the bridge was the right thing to do, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear said in a joint statement.
The bridge is one of only three spans across the Ohio River connecting southern Indiana with Louisville, forcing both states to reroute traffic, according to the Indiana transportation department.
The repair plan calls for installing new steel plating on both sides of a cracked bridge tie that runs the length of the 1,600 foot bridge. The repairs are expected to give the bridge 20 more years of useful life.
The closing of the bridge was just one day after President Barack Obama in a speech touting a jobs creation plan referred to badly decaying roads and bridges across the United States and made a reference to another Ohio River bridge that connects Ohio with Kentucky. On Thursday, the president used a Cincinnati-area bridge as a backdrop for a speech supporting his jobs plan.
The 49-year-old Sherman Minton Bridge serves Interstate 64 and U.S. Highway 150, which run east-west from Virginia to Missouri.
Indiana has the lead responsibility for the repairs and will issue bid documents to contractors Tuesday. The bids will be opened in mid-October. The job includes up to $5 million of incentives for finishing the repairs early.
Bridge costs are shared equally by Indiana and Kentucky.
(Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Greg McCune)
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