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Published: Wednesday, 2/8/2006

70-ton segment of I-280 bridge falls during test at North Toledo site

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A 70-ton precast concrete bridge segment fell 18 inches to the ground yesterday after a mechanical failure at the I-280 construction site in North Toledo, injuring no one but disrupting the project for the second time in two weeks.

Ohio Department of Transportation officials said a 6-inch-diameter shaft in a hoisting assembly called a manipulator broke as the segment was lifted slowly off the ground during a test about 2:30 p.m.

The dropped segment for the Veterans' Glass City Skyway sustained some "hairline cracks" from the impact of the 18-inch fall, but "it looks like it's repairable at this point," said Jeff Baker, the construction manager for ODOT.

Workers had just installed a different manipulator on the gantry crane being used to assemble bridge spans in North Toledo because construction had proceeded to a stage in which unbalanced precast segments are involved, said Mike Gramza, ODOT's project manager.

The shaft that broke was a new piece of equipment and will be sent to Lehigh University in Easton, Pa., for metallurgical analysis, Mr. Gramza said.

The accident occurred just north of Ontario Street.

Fru-Con Construction, the Ballwin, Mo.-based general contractor for the $220 million project, is conducting an investigation and will make a report today to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, ODOT officials said.

During the morning of Jan. 26, two accidents occurred within 15 minutes of each other about a mile apart on the bridge project, causing minor injuries to one construction worker at each location.

On the North Toledo portion of the project, a weld failure caused a winch to shift and strike a worker in the legs. On a span over the Maumee River, a safety cable being strung under the bridge looped and struck a worker's legs.

OSHA is investigating both incidents.

Fru-Con already is working with a safety record stained by the deaths of four construction workers who were crushed Feb. 16, 2004, when a gantry crane used to assemble bridge spans collapsed while being repositioned.

Four other men were injured in that accident, for which OSHA fined the contractor $280,000. That accident and an Oct. 23, 2004, incident in which a support leg for another gantry broke free and fell onto a catwalk combined to delay construction of the main bridge spans for 16 months.

The impact of yesterday's accident on the project's current schedule could be slight if Fru-Con opts to reinstall the manipulator in use before it was changed out yesterday, Mr. Gramza said.

"There shouldn't be any extensive delay," he said.

Contact David Patch at:

dpatch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6094.



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