All clear on the UP tracks after bridge collapse
What was a twisted crumble of steel bridge girders from a section of the old Grand Avenue bridge that collapsed Tuesday night was more like a neat mess waiting to be hauled off the following morning.
By daylight Wednesday, crews were busy using heavy equipment to move the remaining pieces of steel to be cut into sections. The Union Pacific train tracks where the north end of the girders rested after the collapse were all clear, and trains — including the Amtrak California Zephyr — were running on schedule.
“Contractors were following the approved, very precise safety plan when this happened. There were no injuries, there was no private property damage and there was no damage to the railroad tracks,” Dave Eller, regional transportation director for the Colorado Department of Transportation, said during a Wednesday morning telephone news conference.
One of the new columns already in place to support a pier for the new bridge suffered some “slight damage,” he said.
“We will have to assess that, and hopefully the damage is determined to be minor so that we can mitigate it and keep the project on schedule,” Eller said.
None of the debris from the collapsed section ended up in the Colorado River, which is located somewhat farther to the north, he said.
The bridge collapse occurred as workers were trying to pull two of the girders, which were attached, away from a pier situated between the railroad tracks and the Colorado River.
Eller explained that the 210-foot bridge section was made up of six girders attached in three separate spans. The section that collapsed was to be removed two girders at a time, which were to be pulled to the ground so that they could be cut into smaller pieces.
When crews began to pull on the first girder section, the 64-year-old support pier gave out and all six girders came down at the same time, he said.
The remainder of the old bridge structure over Interstate 70 and the Colorado River will continue to be assessed, but it appears the remainder of the old bridge was not compromised, Eller said.
Seven shorter spans of girders are still to be removed once engineers are confident that the demolition work can proceed. Because those spans are located over the river and Interstate 70, a “much different” technique will be used, Eller explained.
“Our crews will be removing those girders one at a time using a crane from above,” he said. “We are confident in using this technique, but we are re-evaluating the demo plan and are making sure we don’t have any compromised piers out there.”
At this point, the estimated 10- to 14-day bridge demolition phase the Grand Avenue bridge project is on schedule, he added.
Meanwhile, backups along eastbound I-70 coming into the bridge detour route at Exit 114 were reportedly not nearly as long as they were on Monday and Tuesday, one official said. I-70 traffic coming into Glenwood in the morning, and the reverse commute back home in the evening have resulted in full gridlock at times during the first two days that the detour has been in effect.
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Rebecca Schild will take the reins of Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers in March. The organization celebrated its 25th anniversary last year and was forced to adapt its strategy due to the coronavirus pandemic.