Section of old Grand Avenue bridge collapses during night work |

Section of old Grand Avenue bridge collapses during night work

Police: No one injured after pier buckled, caused collapse

Steel beams from the old Grand Avenue bridge lay across Union Pacific Railroad tracks Tuesday evening after an accidental collapse.
Ryan Summerlin / Post Independent

large section of the old Grand Avenue bridge in downtown Glenwood Springs, currently under demolition to make way for a new bridge, unexpectedly collapsed Tuesday night.

Tuesday was the second day of bridge demolition work. Steel girders underpinning the 1952 structure had been stripped of the concrete bed earlier. Deconstruction crews began work striping the bridge down piece by piece just after midnight on Monday morning, and the demolition was supposed to take two weeks.

Crews at the south end of the bridge were pulling a girder out of the bridge when it got hung up on an anchor on a middle pier, between Seventh Street and the edge of the Colorado River, said Police Chief Terry Wilson. The pier buckled and then collapsed toward Eighth Street.

The fallen section of bridge was lying across Seventh Street and the railroad tracks.

Witnesses said workers and police officers scrambled and dust flew, and Wilson said shortly after the collapse that no one was injured and that no damage was apparent, other than to the bridge. Wilson said this was not a planned collapse.

“A lot of the bridge was just removed a lot more suddenly than anticipated,” Wilson said.

“I was watching as the girder was being separated from the pier and was being pulled back, when all of a sudden the pier up the line started twisting, and it all collapsed to the ground,” said Jim Wentzel, a witness who was recording when the section fell. “I’ve been here since 3 this afternoon. I’m hooked on this whole thing, I just find it fascinating.”

Police were attempting to keep onlookers at a distance soon afterward, and people were gathering on the side streets and pedestrian bridge to get a look at the hulk of steel caved-in on the ground.

“On the bright side … a 300-ton crane was just delivered Tuesday, which will probably come in handy now,” Wilson said.

Crews feel like they have the fallen section in a good stable position now, and they’re already working to get it chopped up and out of here, Wilson said. 

The Colorado Department of Transportation confirmed the incident was not planned. It 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.

Union Pacific has been notified that their tracks are out of commission. The railroad company could not be reached immediately Tuesday evening, and it was unknown how train schedules, including Amtrak’s California Zephyr, which makes midday stops in Glenwood from each direction, might be affected.

“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.

Asked if the collapsed pier was evidence reinforcing the need for the bridge replacement, Wilson said: “It makes one wonder. That was my first thought. If that pier came down that easily, perhaps it was a sign.”

This 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.


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