Crews Tear Down Rest Of Walkway

CONCORD, N.C. -- Crews on Tuesday began tearing down the rest of the Lowe's Motor Speedway walkway that collapsed and injured more than 100 people, while track officials prepared for more races this week.

Speedway officials planned how to move fans from parking lots across U.S. 29 to the track, with the collapsed walkway and another one now out of commission.

Qualifying races for the Coca-Cola 600 begin Wednesday, and the headline NASCAR race Sunday is expected to draw more than 190,000 people to the track.

An 80-foot section of the 320-foot walkway fell 17 feet onto the highway after The Winston, a NASCAR all-star race, Saturday night as fans crowded the bridge, trying to reach their cars. Corrosion is suspected as the cause of the failure, but engineers are puzzled that rust could have weakened a bridge that was just five years old.

Another, four-year-old walkway 500 yards away was closed Monday after a rust spot was seen on exposed steel, meaning race fans will have to use crosswalks on U.S. 29 to get from the parking lots to the track.

Forty-eight people remained hospitalized Tuesday with injuries from the collapse. Two were listed in critical condition.

Tindall Corp. of Spartanburg, S.C., which made the slabs for the walkway, sent an engineer and a private firm to investigate the collapse. The track's own engineers also are investigating. No state or federal agency is overseeing the inquiry because the track owns the walkway.

"It's up to them to hire inspectors and to figure out what happened, just as it was up to them to remove the debris from the highway," said Don Idol, an assistant bridge inspection engineer with the state Department of Transportation. "It's their bridge."

William Lowndes IV, Tindall's chief operating officer, said a "double-T" design was employed in the construction of the failed walkway. Wet concrete is poured around stretched steel cables to make slabs. After the slabs dry, the tension on the cables is released, strengthening the concrete.

The design is widely used for all kinds of structures, engineers said.

"We don't believe there was anything in the design or manufacture of the double-T itself that in any way contributed to the cause of the failure," Lowndes said. "We don't know exactly what did, but we are fairly confident that that was not a cause."

"I have never heard of a double-T cracking in the middle like that," said Dan Falconer, engineering manager at the American Concrete Institute in Farmington Hills, Mich. "It is one of the most bizarre things I have ever seen."

All 11 cables buried in the concrete were corroded, causing the bridge to bow and then snap, said Don Goins, the state's chief engineer.

Officials said the walkway was designed to withstand 100 pounds per square foot. The collapsed section, 16 feet wide by 80 feet long, should have been able to bear 128,000 pounds.

Speedway president H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler said no more than 150 people - about 22,500 pounds - were on the section when it failed.

"Weight had no bearing on this whatsoever," he said.

Federal highway bridges and North Carolina state pedestrian and highway bridges are inspected every two years, but the speedway was under no inspection timetable. Track officials have been unable to say when the bridge was last inspected.

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