- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 13, 2002

The third construction worker death in nine months at the Springfield Interchange has prompted the Virginia Department of Transportation to close the site for a week to investigate.

"We are on stand-down while all safety procedures are reviewed," said Steven Michael Titunik, VDOT's communications director for the Springfield Interchange project.

"We hope to get back on location in the next 24 or 48 hours," Mr. Titunik said yesterday, meaning work could resume today or tomorrow. He said as many as 400 workers are at the project site at any given time.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry also are investigating the accidents, two of which occurred in the past three weeks.

The work stoppage, which was first reported by the Northern Virginia Journal, is the first construction shutdown in VDOT's history. State inspectors and construction company safety supervisors are reviewing all safety procedures, work credentials and details about the cause of the most recent fatality.

Work was stopped Friday, two days after welder Cesar Rivera Garcia, 24, of North Carolina, fell 100 feet from a steel overpass. He was employed by subcontractor Cress Welding.

On May 23, an employee of Lane Construction fell to his death. The fall was a much shorter distance, but he landed on CSX railroad tracks. He had been working on scaffolding.

Mr. Titunik said both men should have been connected to rope-like restraints to prevent falls. Both men were wearing harnesses, and investigators are trying to determine whether the harnesses came loose or broke, and whether the men had unhooked themselves from the restraints.

In October, an employee of the project's main contractor, Shirley Contracting Corp., was crushed by a vehicle.

The $700 million project at the Springfield Interchange also known as the Mixing Bowl began in 1999 and is scheduled for completion in 2007. It includes 50 bridges and overpasses and is designed to untangle the congested intersection of interstates 95, 395 and 495.

The project has been plagued by cost overruns the original cost estimate was $350 million and is the subject of a congressional audit and a Virginia State Police investigation.

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