WILLCOX – Arizona’s interstate freeways are essential corridors for personal and commercial travel. When an incident forces an extended closure, the Arizona Department of Transportation responds quickly to reopen the thoroughfare as soon as possible with safety the No. 1 goal.
That’s what happened after a fatal semi-tractor trailer crash early Wednesday caused significant damage to the support structure of the US 191 bridge over westbound Interstate 10 just west of Willcox. Less than two days later, an ADOT project reopened the westbound lanes with a temporary support of steel members.
“I am proud of our ADOT team members and dedicated contractors who quickly identified and executed this emergency project,” ADOT Director Jennifer Toth said. “They safely set up detours, got the necessary team in place and worked around the clock to reopen this key corridor in less than two days.”
Approved by ADOT’s Bridge Group, supervised by engineers in ADOT’s Southeast District and made possible by an emergency procurement, the project engaged Granite Construction Inc. as the prime contractor. Mere hours after the Arizona Department of Public Safety had completed its crash investigation, ADOT and the contractor began working nonstop to demolish the damaged bridge pier and erect the temporary support structure.
What the public can’t see when passing this temporary structure is the intensity of effort, the dedication and the commitment to safety that made it possible.
A welder who was on site for nearly the entirety of the project told our engineers that he is 80 years old but still at it for his son’s company, which was a subcontractor. “I’ve retired six times but love what I do,” he said.
Also generously assisting in this monumental effort were state, county and local law enforcement agencies that worked along the detour routes and southeastern Arizona counties and municipalities. The New Mexico Department of Transportation assisted with closing westbound I-10 in New Mexico.
Now that a temporary structure is in place at the US 191 bridge at I-10 milepost 331, ADOT will determine a long-term plan. At a minimum, the pier, girders and deck where the crash occurred will likely need to be replaced.
There is never a good time for an extended closure, especially one that involves a lengthy detour from such a busy freeway. When it does happen, ADOT team members respond quickly and work as hard as possible with safety as their overriding goal.