UPDATE: Shortly before 3 p.m., the weakened Broadway Bridge’s central arches finally collapsed into the Arkansas River, about five hours later than planned.
Here’s what we wrote earlier:
Oops. A series of controlled explosions were set off shortly after 10 a.m. this morning to bring down the center arches of the Broadway Bridge. It still stands, in severely weakened condition, and the highway department and contractors are trying to decide what to do next.
Danny Straessle of the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department explained to Channel 4 that the demolition contractor had made cuts in steel to pre-weaken the structure before the explosions. “It should have brought the bridge down. We’re assessing what happened.”
It’s a problem.
“It’s extremely weakened and extremely dangerous,” Straessle said. “We can’t go near it because it could fall any moment.”
He said the bridge was no danger to the area. But the failure of the demolition to occur holds possibilities for a longer disruption of river traffic than was originally planned. The highway department had 24 hours to clear the navigation channel of debris after it fell. But, so far, there’s no debris except detritus from explosive devices.
Straessle said the bridge is a real danger to those who might venture on it. “Stay tuned. It could fall any minute.”
Straessle volunteered that the failure of the bridge to fall was “a testament to how solid the structure was.” It was built almost a century ago, though the steel arches were added 40 or so years ago when some changes were made in the understructure to widen the river navigation chann3el. It’s a “science,” he said of designing demolition projects. “But, as you can see, the structure is still standing. We’re seeking answers. As soon as we have some, we’ll share them with everybody.”
We covered the attempted demolition on Facebook Live from the Main Street bridge.
A worker was lifted over the bridge by a crane to inspect the impact of the explosive devices and to see what further work might be necessary. But Straessle said he didn’t expect more explosions today. There’s talk of attaching lines to tug on the structure to get it to fall. Said Straessle:
“Keep rolling your camera, it could fall in at any time.”
The latest explanation is that everything worked, but “the bridge is falling into itself.”
NOON UPDATE: Cables have been attached to bridge to a river vessel. They are going to give a tug and see if the thing falls. So far, no luck as of 1:30 p.m. after about four tugs. Shortly before 3 p.m., a fifth pull was attempted with a cable attached to the middle of the span. Still nothing. KATV reports a sixth pull might have added breakage at points where steel was pre-cut. Then, minutes later, on what a KATV reporter says was the eighth pull, down the steel came and stayed clear of the manned barge that had been doing the tugging. Onlookers gave a great cheer. Switching to a stronger tug for the pulling on the last try apparently did the trick.
Stuff happens, of course. But the failure of the effort before a statewide TV and Internet audience was an embarrassment for a department currently assuring the public of its certainty of the wisdom of its highly criticized plan for widening Interstate 30 through Little Rock to 10 lanes. That $600 million-plus project is to include replacement of another Arkansas River bridge.
You’ll see the Highway Department attempted humor below. Also: There’s now both a Twitter account and a Wikipedia entry for the Broadway Bridge.
Below is a photo taken from the Marriott last night. It shows the old Broadway Bridge (visible at lower left in this photo taken from the Marriott last night). It’s also a good vantage point for work on the replacement span underway along the North Little Rock riverbank.