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PennDOT Studies Collapsed Bridge

The 103-year-old North Broad Street Bridge carries U.S. Route 219 over Elk Creek and is being rebuilt, one side at a time.

Wed July 15, 2015 - Northeast Edition

PITTSBURGH (AP) Pennsylvania transportation officials have taken concrete and rebar samples from a bridge to determine whether the southbound side may reopen to traffic after the northbound side collapsed prematurely during demolition, injuring three workers.

Meanwhile, a 15-mi. (24 km) detour around the North Broad Street Bridge in Ridgway will be in place indefinitely, said Marla Fannin, a spokeswoman of the PennDOT region that includes the town about 100 mi. northeast of Pittsburgh.

The 103-year-old bridge carries U.S. Route 219 over Elk Creek and is being rebuilt, one side at a time, as part of a $2.2 million project due to wrap up in October. The bridge carries more than 5,500 vehicles a day.

Diamond-saw crews were cutting through concrete preparing the northbound side for demolition when, instead, it collapsed, said Paul Roman, president of Francis J. Palo Inc. of Clarion, the general contractor on the project. An excavator parked on the northbound lanes fell about 20 ft. with the bridge.

The excavator was towed out and demolition work on the northbound side of the bridge continued, Roman said.

“We were going to tear down that bridge today, just like it went down,’’ Roman said. “I guess that’s why the progress of the job is not affected.’’

Roman said a beam failed, causing the northbound lane to give way prematurely.

The local fire chief said one of the workers injured was in the excavator, but Roman said the construction vehicle was empty. Rather, Roman said, a Palo employee who was walking on the northbound lane when it collapsed suffered a bruised shoulder, and returned to work the next day.

The other two workers hurt are employed by Allegheny Diamond Services Inc. in Sutersville. Company officials didn’t return a call for comment.

But Roman said one subcontractor employee broke his ankle and the other, believed to be seriously injured at first, had his hard hat jammed down on his head so hard that he suffered cuts. The profuse bleeding prompted emergency officials to fly him to a hospital in nearby St. Marys, and he’s expected to recover, Roman said. Roman did not know the names of either man.

Fannin said PennDOT hopes to restore southbound traffic to the bridge as soon as possible, but traffic won’t be allowed back on the bridge until it’s deemed safe.

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