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130-Ton Beams Drop onto Railroad Tracks

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

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Work came to a halt on an Oregon railroad overpass last week when two concrete beams, weighing 130 tons apiece, collapsed onto railroad tracks the new structure was intended to cross.

Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Peter Murphy told The Bend Bulletin that the beams, made from concrete and steel rebar, fell Aug. 29 during placement.

No one was injured during the incident, and vehicular traffic had been halted to accommodate the activity.

The overpass is part of the ODOT’s Wickiup Junction safety project, a $17 million U.S. Highway 97 realignment project in La Pine. The overpass will carry traffic over the tracks that currently cross the highway’s travel lanes.

‘Something Happened’

Crews were using two cranes to move the 173-foot-long, 6-foot-tall beams into place as the first pieces of the bridge span, according to Murphy.

The girders were meant to stretch from one support wall to the other, and serve as the skeleton of the bridge deck, he explained. One was already in position, but during placement of the second beam, both reportedly fell.

“Something happened,” Murphy said. “The upshot was they fell, both of them. And apparently one laid across the tracks.”

Burlington Northern Santa Fe spokesman Gus Melonas indicated that both girders had fallen onto the railroad track. The fallen beams were cleared from the tracks by 6 p.m. that night, The Bulletin reported Aug. 30. Train traffic was halted until the debris could be cleared.

Wickiup Junction project
Oregon Department of Transportation

An investigation is underway to determine why two concrete-and-steel-rebar beams fell during placement at an Oregon overpass construction project Aug. 29, shown here in a rendering.

Melonas indicated that inspectors had examined the tracks before determining there was minimal damage and train service could resume.

Investigation, Materials Replacement

An investigation into the accident is underway, and work is not expected to resume for at least a week after the collapse.

“We’re awaiting results of the preliminary investigation at least before they actually go back to work,” Murphy told The Bulletin. “There has to be an inspection of support walls, and we have to reorder a couple of new beams,” adding that they are “not cheap.”

The day of the accident was to be the first of two days of placing the beams, according to ODOT, and the longest sections were being set first.

Two other beams for the overpass remain at the site. More are reportedly scheduled for delivery, but will not be brought to the site until a plan to get the project back on track is determined.

“We’ll have to have those beams replaced to get the job finished, and those will have to be rebuilt,” Murphy explained.

“Hopefully [what went wrong] will be revealed in the investigation, and they can assess what happened and then go from there,” he added.

Keeping to Schedule

While the collapse is expected to have some impact on the timeline for finishing the project, currently scheduled for completion in the third quarter of 2017, ODOT noted in a statement Friday (Sept. 2) that the schedule for next year is still flexible.

The agency anticipates the new overpass structure will be completed in November of this year, it said. Then, once the bridge is complete, the project will shut down for the winter and work will resume in April or May, once the weather is suitable for paving, it added.

“From there it should take approximately two to three months to complete the work and have traffic running on the new roadway,” ODOT said.

   

Tagged categories: Accidents; Bridges; concrete; Department of Transportation (DOT); Infrastructure; North America; Program/Project Management; Rail; Rebar; Roads/Highways

Comment from B Brown, (9/7/2016, 2:54 PM)

This story almost duplicates the bridge beam failure carried here. In June where a concrete beam broke in two while attempting to lift it in place in Surprise, AZ. There's an investigation for that one too. 3 months later and nothing has been published??? Did anyone notice that all of the rebar at the break appears to have been neatly placed with splices "all" neatly in a row?


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