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‘A rare accident’: Bridge collapse still being investigated

A contracted construction worker injured Thursday during a planned demolition of a U.S. Highway 95 bridge at Eastern Avenue is out of the hospital and back to work.

The unnamed worker was back at work Friday after suffering minor injuries Thursday when a girder failed, causing a portion of the bridge that was already being demolished to unexpectedly collapse, according to Justin Hopkins, Nevada Department of Transportation spokesman.

“He’s not actually out here on the job site, but he was well enough to return to work today,” Hopkins said. “Injuries were minor, the hospitalization was really to get checked out and he is expected to make a full recovery. Everything is going to be good with him.”

The investigation into what exactly caused the girder to give out is still being carried out, but the Occupational Safety and Health Administration gave NDOT the green light to restart the work on the bridge that began Monday.

OSHA’s Nevada spokeswoman Teri Williams said the agency dispatched officials to the scene but she could not comment further because it is an open investigation.

“Some of these girders are upwards of 50 or 60 years old, so as they were taking it down in the controlled fashion, unfortunately this girder happened to fail near the center,” Hopkins said. “This is only because of the demolition. The fact that there was so much of the support structure taken down. We don’t think there’s any way this would have failed if it were not for the demolition that was already underway.”

The bridge is being demolished as part of the $40 million rehabilitation of the U.S. 95 viaduct, which began last spring and is slated to wrap by the summer. The upgrade of the 2-mile-long viaduct, a bridge-like structure, runs between Eastern and Interstate 15.

That stretch of U.S. 95 averaged 183,000 vehicles daily pre-pandemic.

Eastern has been closed since Monday morning for the road project and despite the incident, is on track to reopen Wednesday.

The rehabilitation project’s goal is to extend the life of the existing viaduct structures until the larger Downtown Access Project is planned to begin, sometime in 2027.

Other portions of the viaduct rehab project include demolishing bridges, such as the ongoing work at U.S. 95 and Desert Inn Road. The final phase of the reconstruction of the Desert Inn bridge is planned to begin Jan. 31 and last until Feb. 5. Desert Inn will be shut to all traffic during the nine-day project.

It remains to be seen if any added precautions need to be added when carrying out that final portion of Desert Inn bridge work, following Thursday’s accident.

“It’s a little early to say if they’ll do any additional safeguards,” Hopkins said. “At this point it doesn’t seem they will, because this is such a rare accident. Everything was done according to how we’ve done this in the past with other bridge demolitions, so it doesn’t appear there will need to be any additional safety precautions. It certainly underscores why we close the road under big projects like this.”

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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