HICKORY, North Carolina — The newly constructed arches, the centerpiece of the Hickory City Walk, collapsed around midnight Thursday night.
They fell on the pedestrian walkway and Main Avenue northeast above Highway 127 near downtown Hickory. The police closed the two areas.
A Channel 9 crew at the scene on Friday morning was able to see the slashed wooden arches. Neighbors said it felt like an earthquake when the arches collapsed overnight.
The arches were part of the 40-ton, multimillion-dollar City Walk Project, the contract for which was signed in June 2019. The two arches were installed downtown in 2021 and cost $750,000.
“I feel like that’s what Hickory stands for and it’s embarrassing,” resident Carmen Eckard said. “$750,000 that is just firewood now.
There was no information immediately available about the fall of the arches, but Channel 9 reached out to find out more.
Workers spent much of Friday morning securing the area around the two bridges.
By dawn, dozens of people had come out to see what was left of the pedestrian bridge that crosses Route 127. Hickory Mayor Hank Guess spoke by phone with Channel 9’s Dave Faherty. He said happily no one was hurt and the arches are still under warranty.
“Extremely disappointed,” Guess said. “It was the iconic structure that really highlighted our walk through the city. All the engineers, all the professionals, all the architects — everyone agreed that this structure was safe and sound.
The mayor said the arches were made by Oregon-based company Western Wood Structures. Their price tag of over half a million dollars was about 5% of the total $14.3 million contract Hickory awarded to Neill Grading & Construction Company for the city walk.
Neill Grading and Construction Company sent a statement to Channel 9 confirming it was under contract with the City of Hickory, but said it had no direct involvement in the design or manufacture of the arches.
Neil Grading said he subcontracted the design and construction of the pedestrian bridge, bridge end walls and decorative wood arches to Dane Construction, who then hired and subcontracted the design of the decorative wood arches to Western Wood Structures in Oregon. Neill Grading said that after the arches were fabricated and shipped by Western Wood Structures, Dane Construction installed the arches under the supervision of NCDOT’s third-party building administrators and inspectors.
The statement reads as follows:
“Neill Grading and Construction Co., Inc is under contract with the City of Hickory to construct the City Walk project as general contractor. Neill subcontracted the design and construction of the pedestrian bridge, bridge end walls and decorative wooden arches to Dane Construction.
“Dane Construction has hired/subcontracted the design and fabrication of the decorative wood arches to Western Wood Structures of Tualatin, Oregon. Western Wood Structures was one of three approved companies listed in the tender documents to choose from for the City Walk project. Dane Construction erected the decorative wooden arches after they were fabricated and shipped to the project site by Western Wood Structures. The installation was done under the supervision of NCDOT third party building administrators and inspectors as well as other organizations.
“While Neill Grading is acting as general contractor for the City Walk project, Neill was not directly involved in the design, fabrication or erection of the decorative wooden arches. As general contractor, we are providing overall project supervision, as well as arranging traffic control measures for road closures and diversions during the construction and erection of the bridge and decorative wooden arches.Neill and Dane had representatives on site shortly after the wooden arches collapsed early this morning Dane has been in written contact with Western Wood Structures to inform them of the incident and request that they send engineers to inspect the site and investigate what could have led to the arches collapsing.
“While we too are shocked and saddened that this has happened, we are extremely grateful that no injuries have been reported as a result of the collapse. As the investigation has only just begun, there are no no further details are available at this time and we will provide more information as it becomes available.
Neill Grading and Construction Co., Inc.”
The city said the arches were built to withstand 100mph winds. A cold front swept through the Carolinas Thursday night that brought showers and winds gusting up to 35 mph.
The first arch was lifted in March without issue, but crews stopped work after attempting to lift the second arch. They said they heard banging noises, so the arch was reinforced and re-inspected before being raised in July 2021.
Hickory officials confirmed that last year’s burst problem was “repaired with tape, clamps and self-tapping screws.”
NCDOT officials said they were not involved in the construction and were not investigating the collapse. However, the city of Hickory said the state must approve a solution after the wood in the arches broke during construction.
The mayor said there will be inspections and an investigation to try to determine the cause.
Sarah Talbert walks the city with her dog every day and said she would miss the huge arches.
“I go through it every day, sometimes twice a day,” Talbert said. “It’s just sad to see a pile of rubble right now. I thought it was beautiful.
Inspections of the bridge itself revealed no damage. The mayor told Faherty that it seems very unlikely that the arches will be rebuilt, but they may consider other options for the pedestrian bridge.
(WATCH BELOW: The Hickory City Walk project continues as crews erect two arches)
©2022 Cox Media Group