I-Team 8

Intense heat, humidity buckle section of State Road 9 near Fairmount

FAIRMOUNT, Ind. (WISH) — A rural section of State Road 9 in Grant County has a 14-inch buckle.

Indiana Department of Transportation says a combination of heat and humidity caused the big buckle. INDOT spokesperson Megan DeLucenay said Wednesday, “The extreme heat can take a toll on our bodies it can also take a toll on the roads.”

The section of State Road 9 took a turn for the worst as temperatures on Tuesday in Indianapolis hit 99 for the first time in nearly a decade, and neared or hit 100 degrees in other parts of central Indiana. The intense heat brought the temperature of the road surface to well over 100 degrees, then a brief but heavy rain cooled the concrete, and created an act of thermodynamic physics wizardry that can stop traffic.

Luna Lu, a professor of civil engineering at Purdue University, told News 8, “That is caused by thermo expansion because concrete will expand as the temperature gets extremely high like in the last couple of weeks, and then the material will expand and meet at the joint because there is no more room to go and it pushed against each other and it buckles. This typically happens in high-traffic areas where the concrete is older and the material gets weaker.”

This section of State Road 9 is not that old. The road was redone in the past 10 years. INDOT says the concrete was made from a high-strength, fiber-reinforced material that doesn’t require rebar or a metal reinforcement for strength. An expansion joint that allows for expansion and contraction of the concrete is cut in the road surface about every 6 feet or so. Under ordinary circumstances the expansion joints would prevent the road from buckling; however, the weather in the past couple of weeks has been anything but ordinary. 

“This is not just happening in Indiana. Even in colder places like Minnesota and other places, this has been happening in the summer,” the civil engineering professor said.

INDOT closed the road on Tuesday while contractors remove the old concrete. The buckle in is too big to shave down and, INDOT says, forget about trying to push the sections back into place. INDOT’s DeLucenay said, “You can’t really predict when it is going to happen.”

The curing of the new concrete will take a few days, which means that State Road 9 in Grant County is going to be closed until at least the weekend, INDOT says.