A truck sits under a collapsed pedestrian bridge along Kenilworth Avenue & Polk Street Northeast in Washington, Wednesday, June 23, 2021. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via AP)

By Carl Thomas
Special to the AFRO

Just before noon on Wednesday, a boom truck left a construction site on Kenilworth Avenue N.E. and entered the flow of traffic on DC-295. The truck, which has a crane-like structure attached to the back (the boom), made contact with the bridge after the driver apparently failed to completely lower the boom, which resulted in the structure collapsing.

The pedestrian bridge at Polk street, which provides safe passage over DC-295 from the Deanwood Metro station, was unoccupied at the time of collapse. Several cars were involved in the crash behind the truck; in all, six people were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The question many are asking is how did this happen. In a news conference late Wednesday evening, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Chris Geldart said after speaking with the bridge engineers, in its most recent inspection, the bridge was rated a four on a national scale of zero to nine. 

“A four means that there are some issues with the bridge that it needs to get into our capital projects,” Geldart said. “But it doesn’t mean that anything is gonna, you know, the bridge is gonna fall down with a score of four.” In it’s prior inspection, in 2019, the bridge was rated a five, which is “fair” and does not trigger the need to be repaired through the capital project. The four rating meant that the bridge would be repaired sometime before the end of 2022.

“In this case, this bridge was rated at a four just in May, when the report was completed, so we’re starting to make its way into our capital projects for next year,” Geldart explained.

In addition to the collapsed bridge, the truck was partially trapped under the debris and leaked about 25 gallons of diesel fuel into nearby drains. A hazardous materials team put down a substance to absorb diesel and mitigate the risk to waterways, a D.C. Department of Energy & Environment spokesperson said.

Geldart said it was fortunate no one was more seriously hurt. “We were very lucky – all of us were today.”

The collapse left nightmarish conditions for drivers traveling along Kenilworth Avenue and the pedestrians leaving Deanwood metro. Traffic and surrounding routes were backed up for at least three miles, but through the night and early morning crews worked to clear the debris and 295 is back open.

“Miracle on DC 295,” D.C. Fire and EMS tweeted.  “Not only were there no serious injuries or deaths in the pedestrian bridge collapse, but the mass of debris was removed highway reopening in little over 12 hours.  An array of city agencies including made this happen.” 

Help us Continue to tell OUR Story and join the AFRO family as a member – subscribers are now members!  Join here!