Walker visits damaged Glenn Highway overpass
The department's commissioner, Marc Luiken, told KTVA Friday that repairs to the damaged span should commence shortly.
"There is quite a bit going on with our contractor and we expect that they will be out there either by the end of the day or early tomorrow -- we're going to get that damaged girder out," Luiken said.
Inbound commuter traffic was moving well on the Glenn Friday morning.
Anchorage police had opened a second detour past the overpass early Friday, taking traffic off the Glenn and back onto it via Eagle View Drive. The Anchorage School District had canceled classes for the day at Chugiak and Eagle River schools, after students and teachers were delayed by hours Thursday amid slow traffic on an initial detour through Eagle River on the Old Glenn Highway.
Shannon McCarthy, with the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, said a truck with Bighorn Enterprises was carrying a prefabricated structure inbound when the top of the structure hit the South Eagle River overpass just after 1 p.m. Wednesday.
A permit for the vehicle listed its allowed height for the Glenn trip as 17 feet. The overpass struck by the load has a ground clearance of 18 feet, 8 inches.
State officials regularly work with commercial haulers to plan safe routes for large loads, which prevent them from passing beneath spans too short for them. McCarthy said the department’s Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Section, which polices trucking firms in the state, was working with Anchorage police to determine whether the truck’s driver will be cited.
In a statement posted Thursday on Bighorn's since-deleted Facebook page, the company apologized for the disruption and said it was working with investigators. The company said the structure which struck the overpass was part of a temporary-housing "man camp" being taken to Seward, in a series of loads which were meant to be transported "in a very specific order."
"We are continuing to investigate, but the early determination is that the load that we picked up and transported on March 21 was not the load that we were expecting or told we were hauling," Bighorn officials wrote.
No injuries were reported in the collision, but McCarthy said police closed the Glenn inbound at the overpass due to concerns that parts of the overpass span, some of which weigh tons, might fall onto the highway’s southbound lanes.
“Essentially, the concrete span was pulverized,” McCarthy said. “Even though large portions of it are still intact, there's no structural integrity; when you get up close and look at it, it's really not intact – in fact, there's risk of it falling.”
DOTPF is seeking at least $1.6 million in emergency appropriation to cover costs of repairing the overpass. McCarthy said that Bighorn might be found liable for damages from the crash "depending on the outcome of the investigation."
“When I spoke with people who were at the scene yesterday, they said there was still concrete that was raining from the structure,” McCarthy said. “Once we get that removed and cleaned out, we'll be able to reopen.”
Although projections of the repair cost ranged as high as $2 million, Luiken said Friday that those numbers were still preliminary.
"We don't have, obviously, all of those costs figured out yet, but that's our initial estimate," Luiken said.
In the meantime, the southern lanes across the overpass remain usable for traffic on Eagle River’s Artillery Road, although McCarthy said the northern side of the overpass has currently lost “about 12 feet of usable driving area.” Overweight loads have been prohibited, with DOTPF crews on hand to direct traffic as well as prevent any overweight vehicles from passing.
McCarthy was awaiting word on how tall the truck’s load was when it struck the overpass above the Glenn, but said both federal and state statutes govern commercial vehicles’ height. She attributed the severity of the strike to the speed of the truck as well as its load’s height.
“When you have a higher load going at a higher speed, it will cause more damage,” McCarthy said.
George Brandenburg, Daniella Rivera and Cassie Schirm contributed information to this story.
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