Portion of old Grand Avenue bridge collapses
A large section of the skeleton of the old Grand Avenue bridge in downtown Glenwood Springs collapsed Tuesday evening as crews worked on its demolition. No one was injured.
Tuesday was the second day of demolition work. Steel girders underpinning the deck of the 1953 structure had been stripped of the concrete bed earlier, and fell at about 8:05 p.m. across Union Pacific railroad tracks and Seventh Street.
Witnesses said workers and police officers scrambled and dust flew, but no one was hurt, Glenwood Police Chief Terry Wilson said.
The Colorado Department of Transportation said the girders did not fall into the Colorado River or end up off the project site.
“The remainder of the old Grand Avenue Bridge structure over I-70 and the Colorado River has been assessed and is secure,” CDOT said in a news release late Tuesday. Crews almost immediately went to work cutting the girders apart to clean up the mess.
Jim Wentzel of Glenwood Springs shot this phone video of Tuesday’s accident.
Wilson said that a pier between Seventh Street and the Colorado River buckled and collapsed as equipment was pulling on the girders. A witness said the girders apparently got hung up on each other and caused a middle pier to collapse.
Police cordoned off the area as crews went to work on cleanup.
Wilson said Union Pacific had been notified that its tracks were out of commission, but onlookers said a freight train passed through Wednesday morning after the rubble was cleared. The tracks had been covered during the work Tuesday evening.
A UP spokeswoman Wednesday morning was looking into any implications of the incident. An Amtrak spokesman in Chicago said that as far as he knew early Wednesday, the California Zephyr would make its regular midday stops in Glenwood from each direction.
“Our first priority is to clean up the tracks, and we will then continue with deconstruction of the bridge as planned,” Tracy Trulove, CDOT regional communications manager, said late Tuesday.
It was the first significant accident of the construction project, which began in early 2016.
The bridge is being torn down to make way for a new, wider and longer structure that already is partially built. The $126 million effort is largest infrastructure project on Colorado’s Western Slope in a generation.
The old bridge, which was considered structurally sound but functionally deficient, was open to traffic until midnight Sunday.
Since its closure, crews have gone to work to deconstruct it, which was supposed to take about two weeks. Tuesday showed significant progress before the accident.
Among the crowd of onlookers after the bridge collapse Tuesday night was Jim Wentzel of Glenwood Springs, who captured the moment on video from his perch atop the nearby pedestrian bridge.
Wentzel was watching as crews were trying to separate the girder from the pier, “when all of a sudden the pier just started twisting and the whole thing collapsed to the ground,” he said. A huge crash can be heard, and dust begins to fly as construction workers along the sides scramble.
“I’ve been here since 3 this afternoon,” Wentzel said. “I’m hooked on this whole thing, I just find it fascinating. Really, they’re doing a great job.”
Overnight after the first day, crews were able to remove the bridge deck starting at the south end all the way to the third pier between the UP tracks and the Colorado River. That left only the steel girders showing on the far southern end of the bridge.
“I wouldn’t say it’s ahead of schedule, but we certainly haven’t run into any significant problems,” Tom Newland, bridge project spokesman for the Colorado Department of Transportation, said earlier in the day.
The 24-hour operation has involved quite a bit of overnight work, as crews are using bright flood lights to illuminate the area. That allows a bulk of the heavy truck loads of debris to head out while there is little traffic on the Eighth Street and Midland detour route.
The remaining girders for the new bridge are expected to arrive in late August so they can be erected starting in September, Newland said.
It was unclear Tuesday how the accident might affect the schedule.
The new bridge is scheduled to be open in 93 days, after what in its early days is proving to be a painful detour through Glenwood Springs.
The scene afterward:
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