GRAPEVINE -- The accident that gouged two bridges over State Highway 114/121 left one of them so unsafe it will never re-open, adding to the traffic tie-ups with the massive DFW Connector project.
Ironically, the accident was caused by an equipment hauler operated by a bridge demolition company, though that company is not working on the project, officials said. The semi-truck, operated by Stomper Demolition of Euless, was hauling an excavator that was too tall and struck some of the bridges' underside girders, said Selma Stockstill, with NorthGate Constructors, the company in charge of the DFW Connector project.
The boom on the excavator gouged one outside girder of the southbound bridge and two girders of the northbound bridge. The impact was so severe in one of the girders that "some of the rebar have snapped within the concrete," she said.
The boom was 16 feet, 3 inches tall, while the driver had a permit allowing the boom to be no higher than 14 feet, 2 inches, according to the police report on the accident.
Tony Hartzel, with the Texas Department of Transportation, said the bridge had a clearance of 14 feet 7 inches.
It will be at least a week before drivers can cross over the highways on Texan Trail, officials said.
Engineers will need to do a "full structural analysis" of the southbound bridge before deciding if it is safe enough to allow vehicles back on it, Stockstill said.
If that bridge is deemed safe, she said, it will be opened up to for a single lane of traffic each direction.
As for the other bridge, which carried northbound traffic, it will never open again, Stockstill said. "It is not safe for the traveling public to be on that bridge," she said.
The bridge already had been scheduled for demolition starting Feb. 3 and will remain closed until then.
The southbound bridge is not expected to come down for another three to six months, Hartzel said. It may need some repair work to ensure it remains safe for drivers to use in the meantime.
While the Texan Trail southbound bridge is being evaluated, Stockstill said drivers are directed to use the Main Street bridge further to the west. This weekend, Main Street traffic already was scheduled to be shifted off an old bridge section to a portion of the newly completed section. Also, NorthGate was going to open up a Texas turn-around on the Main Street bridge, allowing traffic going west on the 114 frontage road to do a U-turn going back east without having to wait at the traffic light.
Unfortunately, Stockstill said, "there is not a whole lot else we can do right now" to ease traffic disrupted by the closing of the Texan Trail bridges.
Meanwhile, all lanes for 114/121 were open Friday, unlike Thursday evening when the freeway was down to two lanes, causing major backups in the area. "It probably was not an easy commute," Stockstill acknowledged.
But she said the lane closures were necessary because there was debris on the roadway from the collision and fear than chunks of concrete might yet fall from the damaged girders.
Grapevine's commercial vehicle inspection team is investigating the accident, according to Sgt. Robert Eberling. In the initial investigation, he said, officers "did find violations." Three citations were issued.
Hartzel said TxDOT will look at the costs associated with the incident. "There are cost recovery mechanisms for that," he said of potentially recouping the state's costs for doing the bridge inspections and any related costs. However, he added that the fact that both bridges will be demolished this year would be taken into account.