Bremen Highway closed again for buckling surface

Crews repair Bremen Highway. // WSBT 22 photo

It's not a new problem, but it's one that some say should've been fixed by now: Bremen highway has buckled yet again. Right now, it's closed from Ireland to Dragoon.

Bremen highway is kind of unique. It's not just a stretch of asphalt. It's a concrete overlay made up of a bunch of small panels.

When it gets hot out, those panels can move and buckle against each other. But every time they do, this busy highway has to completely shut down.

The sound of construction is something Ray Swank and his bulldogs are used to. He's lived off of Bremen highway for 18 years.

“I wouldn't go back to the city,” Swank said.

And over the past five years, the road to his house seems to be blocked off more and more.

“Just because they're having a little trouble with it don't make it bad. You know what I mean?” Swank said.

The trouble he's talking about is the road buckling.

“It's what happens in concrete pavement's with temperatures. They expand in the summers with the heat and they contract in the winters due to the low temperatures,” said St. Joseph County Engineer Jessica Clark.

Clark says over the past two years the panels on the road have buckled six to eight times, but she says that's expected on the 10-year-old concrete and that if it wasn't paved in thin panels it would cost a lot more time and money.

“It actually has accomplished, it's cool when we did the project we were trying to alleviate running and shoving that was occurring with other paving materials,” Clark said.

But Clark says looking back, the county would've done some things differently.

Each panel on this highway is 4 inches deep, but over the past 10 years recommendations have changed. Clark says if she were to do it again she'd make it six inches.

The county engineer still believes despite the yearly buckling the concrete overlay is a success.

There are no plans to replace the road surface with anything different.

“The plan would be to continue just our annual maintenance, continue in the monitoring until such time that the road itself would need complete replacement,” Clark said.

And despite the closure, Swank says this is an easy fix.

“The potholes, I don't care what they do -- how they patch them. They always break back open these once they fix the concrete, it's done,” Swank said.

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