The incident happened on February 18, 2022, after the wooden arches spanning the Rudy Wright Bridge fell during a heavy rainstorm. Thankfully, no one was hurt.
The City of Hickory sued three construction companies; Neil Grading and Construction Company, Inc., Dane Construction, Inc., and Western Wood Structures, Inc.
In April 2022, the lawsuit stated, “The nature and purpose of this action is to recover from the defendants damages that have been and will continue to be incurred by the City of Hickory as a result of the arch collapse.”
The large wood arches were the centerpiece of the Hickory City Walk project that connects Lenoir-Rhyne University with downtown. The pedestrian bridge crosses over NC 127.
In April 2021, the project hid a roadblock due to “concerns brought to the contractor’s attention during installation.”
A city spokesperson said a section of the wood arched showed signs of “stress” and construction was stopped out of an “abundance of caution.”
Engineers with the arch’s manufacturer, Western Wood Structures, Inc., inspected the structure and came up with a plan to reinforce it at that time.
“I would hate for it to fall down on somebody under the bridge or on the train. It would suck,” Hickory resident Emily Sypher told Queen City News in May 2021.
City officials said the “iconic” structure cost $752,743 and was paid for by a bond referendum approved by voters in 2014.
“Through mediation, a settlement agreement in the amount of $1.325 million was reached between the City of Hickory and defendants Neill Grading and Construction Company, Inc.; Dane Construction Company, Inc.; Western Wood Structures, Inc.; Western Wood Chief Engineer Paul Gilham; and WSP USA Environment & Infrastructure,” the City of Hickory said Wednesday.
Hickory City Council voted to approve the settlement agreement on Tuesday, Oct. 17.
“We’re pleased with the results of the litigation. With this settlement agreement, all parties can turn their attention to the future,” Hickory Mayor Hank Guess said in a written statement, released on Wednesday. “The City of Hickory looks forward to continuing to build the Hickory Trail and craft a resilient, more vibrant community.”