$1 Million, 2 Months of Construction Time Lost in Rail Bridge Collapse

Times Staff Writer

Two months of construction time was lost in this week’s collapse of a partially built trolley bridge, and the cost of the cleanup and replacement will exceed $1 million, Los Angeles County transit officials said Thursday.

Officials said they hope to recover most of the losses, however, through insurance settlements and by speeding up work.

At a downtown press conference, county Transportation Commission officials said it may be two weeks before a team of investigators has preliminary conclusions about what caused the 400-ton concrete trestle to crash down Tuesday on Firestone Boulevard in South Los Angeles. Eight people escaped with only minor injuries in the near-tragedy that occurred near the tail end of the morning rush hour.

The investigation, which will be conducted by an interagency group of experts in bridge building, structural engineering and safety, will focus on the “apparent failure” of a timber-and-steel temporary support, said Neil Peterson, the commission’s executive director.


Ed McSpedon, the commission’s rail construction chief, said other bridges being built along the 22-mile Los Angeles-to-Long Beach light rail line have been inspected and no problems have been found.

He said the type of construction used on the collapsed bridge was different than on other bridges in the project but described the procedures as proven ones. To maintain required clearances for vehicles on Firestone Boulevard, the bridge had to be built across the road at one height and later lowered into final position using jacks and cranes. The lowering procedure was scheduled to have taken place the night of the accident, McSpedon said.

McSpedon, who is heading the investigation team, said Thursday that he did not have some basic information about the incident. Although one of his consulting engineers was present on the bridge site Tuesday morning, he said he did not yet know what the bridge workers were doing just before the accident. That will not be known until the probe gets further along, he said.

Commission officials have said they expect taxpayers to be protected from any losses by the agency’s construction insurance. But McSpedon acknowledged that who will ultimately bear some of the increased costs of catch-up work might have to be negotiated with the contractor, Morrison-Knudsen, based on the findings about the cause of the accident.


Meanwhile, McSpedon said, commission insurance adjusters were working to get immediate assistance to a South Gate delicatessen worker and part-time gardener who were trapped inside a truck crushed by the falling bridge.

Marcos Pacheco Ramirez, a 30-year-old father of seven, lost his truck and tools and said Wednesday that he was unable to work because of an injured foot and did not know how he will pay his bills. Thursday afternoon, Ramirez acknowledged that a commission insurance representative had been by to offer help but said he was consulting with attorneys before accepting anything.