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Author Topic: North Carolina's Famed Truck-Scalping Bridge Nears 100 Recorded Crashes  (Read 21284 times)

mrsman

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http://www.citylab.com/commute/2015/07/they-still-havent-fixed-that-north-carolina-bridge-that-decapitates-trucks/399053/

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Another year, another opportunity to check in with Durham, North Carolina’s notorious truck-decapitating underpass.

Eleven feet, eight inches—that’s all the room there is below the Gregson Street bridge. Glaring signs, flashing lights, and a bright-yellow crash bar all attest to the dangerously low clearance. Yet trucks continue to batter it like besiegers trying to take down the castle door. A thundering accident on July 9 marked the 95th crash since 2008, says Jürgen Henn, a local who’s garnered worldwide fame filming the mayhem. “By the way,” wonders one of his German YouTube fans, “do you prepare a small gift or a nice certificate for the 100th crash driver?”

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Zeffy

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Oh come on. They've placed ample warning devices before the overpass. If you miss all of those, you deserve to total your vehicle. GPS doesn't replace the necessity for paying attention to the road you are on.
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NJRoadfan

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This is just one of many bridges that rips trucks apart across the country. There is one on Elmora Ave. (NJ-439) in Elizabeth that has the same collection of warning signs that go ignored.
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mrsman

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I agree that it is the driver's responsibility to not let this happen.

But it still behooves the question as to what should the DOT do as it is still happening.  This is the only place I know of where these collisions occur with this type of frequency.

I would treat this like bad behaved children.  If one misbehaves, the whole class could lose out on a privilege.

So I would put up signs to prohibit all moving vans, trucks, buses (except transit) and RVs from going under the bridge.  Passenger cars and transit buses only.

Then, I'd redirect the trucks to turn left on Peabody, right on S Duke, and right on Memorial to continue their journey.  The left lane of S Duke would have course need to convert to a southbound lane.
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Zeffy

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So I would put up signs to prohibit all moving vans, trucks, buses (except transit) and RVs from going under the bridge.  Passenger cars and transit buses only.

If the three warning signs aren't helping, how will regulatory signs do anything? Perhaps on the approach to the bridge, there needs to be a large (so you can't miss it) sign that states LOW BRIDGE WARNING or something similar.
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cjk374

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The world is full of dumb asses! This poor bridge in NC solidifies this fact.  :pan: :banghead:
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Simple solution for this case....

If a truck triggers the overheight system, install some RR gates at the bridge to come down before the truck gets there.  That should get their attention and prevent a hit!

MikeTheActuary

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Simple solution for this case....

If a truck triggers the overheight system, install some RR gates at the bridge to come down before the truck gets there.  That should get their attention and prevent a hit!

If drivers are ignoring warning signs and alerts...why would they bother stopping for gates?

Sometimes only Darwin can fix stupid.
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froggie

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Since Gregson is a 2-lane street, any such gates would also impact legally-traveling cars and pickups who may happen to be paralleling the overheight truck.  This proposal is even less realistic than the suggestion to convert Duke St to 2-way across the tracks
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WashuOtaku

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But it still behooves the question as to what should the DOT do as it is still happening.  This is the only place I know of where these collisions occur with this type of frequency.

Not much NCDOT can do about the bridge, it's not there's.  Also, this is not the only bridge in the state that scalps trucks; this is just the most famous one because it's been video recorded for several years now.

As an example, NC 581, through Bailey, North Carolina has a short Truck Route just to bypass a 8'6" clearance rail bridge.  It too has several warning signs, a light flashers and steel beam to reflect the damage from the bridge too; yet still scalps a truck now and then regardless.
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DeaconG

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Simple solution for this case....

If a truck triggers the overheight system, install some RR gates at the bridge to come down before the truck gets there.  That should get their attention and prevent a hit!

If drivers are ignoring warning signs and alerts...why would they bother stopping for gates?

Sometimes only Darwin can fix stupid.

Hang a sign that says "$2,500 FINE FOR STRIKING BRIDGE"...and collect it when they do.  The word will get out after awhile and the smart truckers will avoid it.  The stupid ones will pay the price.

Hell, they've done everything else, right? Hit 'em in the wallet and they'll get the point...even the truckers who don't own their own rigs will find themselves without work after one of two of those fines.

If they take it to court? After you show the various warning signs and overheight detectors, just show the videos.  Case closed.
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jeffandnicole

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Simple solution for this case....

If a truck triggers the overheight system, install some RR gates at the bridge to come down before the truck gets there.  That should get their attention and prevent a hit!

If drivers are ignoring warning signs and alerts...why would they bother stopping for gates?

Sometimes only Darwin can fix stupid.

Hang a sign that says "$2,500 FINE FOR STRIKING BRIDGE"...and collect it when they do.  The word will get out after awhile and the smart truckers will avoid it.  The stupid ones will pay the price.

Hell, they've done everything else, right? Hit 'em in the wallet and they'll get the point...even the truckers who don't own their own rigs will find themselves without work after one of two of those fines.

If they take it to court? After you show the various warning signs and overheight detectors, just show the videos.  Case closed.

Again, people are ignoring signs in place.  Do you think that they are saying to themselves "Well, I have a 13' truck, and that bridge is only 11' high.  But the fine is only $200.  Oh, what the hell...I'll just go and hit it".

For many professional truck drivers, they are probably going to lose their job anyway.  The merchandise within the truck is destroyed, costing the trucking company, the supplier, and the customer time and money. 

If it was a rental truck, they hopefully have insurance coverage on the truck, or insurance coverage via their own auto policy.  And after paying the deductible, they're probably going to have a rate increase.

As far as tickets go - those tickets aren't cheap that they will receive  And you have to give a ticket for something that's actually a law.  Let me know which laws are in your state that prohibit hitting a bridge.  There probably aren't any.  But there are tickets for ignoring posted signs, driving on prohibited trucking routes, careless driving, etc.  And those tickets will add up.

Smart truckers are already avoiding the bridge.  It's not like every truck is hitting it.
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mrsman

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Simple solution for this case....

If a truck triggers the overheight system, install some RR gates at the bridge to come down before the truck gets there.  That should get their attention and prevent a hit!

If drivers are ignoring warning signs and alerts...why would they bother stopping for gates?

Sometimes only Darwin can fix stupid.

Hang a sign that says "$2,500 FINE FOR STRIKING BRIDGE"...and collect it when they do.  The word will get out after awhile and the smart truckers will avoid it.  The stupid ones will pay the price.

Hell, they've done everything else, right? Hit 'em in the wallet and they'll get the point...even the truckers who don't own their own rigs will find themselves without work after one of two of those fines.

If they take it to court? After you show the various warning signs and overheight detectors, just show the videos.  Case closed.

Again, people are ignoring signs in place.  Do you think that they are saying to themselves "Well, I have a 13' truck, and that bridge is only 11' high.  But the fine is only $200.  Oh, what the hell...I'll just go and hit it".

For many professional truck drivers, they are probably going to lose their job anyway.  The merchandise within the truck is destroyed, costing the trucking company, the supplier, and the customer time and money. 

If it was a rental truck, they hopefully have insurance coverage on the truck, or insurance coverage via their own auto policy.  And after paying the deductible, they're probably going to have a rate increase.

As far as tickets go - those tickets aren't cheap that they will receive  And you have to give a ticket for something that's actually a law.  Let me know which laws are in your state that prohibit hitting a bridge.  There probably aren't any.  But there are tickets for ignoring posted signs, driving on prohibited trucking routes, careless driving, etc.  And those tickets will add up.

Smart truckers are already avoiding the bridge.  It's not like every truck is hitting it.

From what I've read about this bridge is that very few PROFESSIONAL truck drivers are hitting this bridge.  They know how tall their rigs are and they avoid it.

Most of the people that hit the bridge are those driving rental trucks to do personal moves.  Durham is a college town so a lot of students move in and out and are unfamiliar with the layout.  They rent a truck and don't focus on the height issue.  Most people renting a truck probably have no clue how tall it is or would even be aware that their truck could get stuck on any legal undercrossing.

By prohibiting all trucks from using the undercrossing, you will eliminate the excuse of "I didn't know my truck was so tall".

Yes, of course it is the fault of drivers for hitting this bridge.  Yes, the drivers and their insurance should pay all damages involved.  But the transportation professsionals shouldn't rest until the number of bridge hits is reduced significantly.

The parkways in NYC have many low clearances.  As a rule, trucks (and buses) are generally prohibited from using them.  There are clear signs that the roads are for passenger cars only.  Bridge hits are much more rare there, because the truck know they shouldn't be there in the first place.
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roadman

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If it was a rental truck, they hopefully have insurance coverage on the truck, or insurance coverage via their own auto policy

Don't know about Durham, but in Boston, rental companies will invalidate the LDW if the truck is involved in a bridge strike on Storrow or Memorial Drives - the two main arterial "parkways" that have excessively low clearances.  It wouldn't surprise me if rental truck coverage via a personal auto policy would have similar stipulations.

That having been said, the Durham bridge - which actually has better signs than either Storrow or Memorial Drives - has the same basic problem as both of those roads.  There is NO alternate safe truck route posted.
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Rothman

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Quote from: mrsman link=topic=16046.msg2081139#msg2081139

Bridge hits are much more rare there, because the truck know they shouldn't be there in the first place.

Actually, bridge hits on the parkways are more common than you'd think.  There are commercial drivers that make spur-of-the-moment decisions to dodge congestion on expressways by ducking onto parkways and gambling they won't be caught...but then a bridge "catches" them.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2015, 12:08:19 AM by Rothman »
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Please note: All comments here represent my own personal opinion and do not reflect the official position(s) of NYSDOT.

Sykotyk

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It's not so much that people are ignoring the signs, these trucks are, in a lot of cases, driven by people not realizing just how tall their vehicle is. Most 'low bridges' are restricting the bigger 12'8 or 13'6 trucks, but generally can fit a lot of the smaller box trucks, delivery trucks, moving trucks, RVs, campers, etc.

I had a friend who drove a delivery truck for a short while and never realized that his truck was just a half inch away from hitting a particular bridge until his boss told him not to take that route as another of their trucks struck it (apparently the suspension made it just a tad taller and opened it like a sardine can). He was completely oblivious to it. Never even thought about it the entire time. Had he driven the other truck, it would've been him to hit. Nobody told him, originally, that he couldn't take that road due to height.
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noelbotevera

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Alabama style anyone?

Put up a reinforced sign saying "If you hit this sign you will hit that bridge".


My ideas:

(Sarcasm Intended) Just set up land mines for the next 2 blocks, and put up a sign saying "MINE FIELD".

(Being Real) Why not use strengthened railroad crossing gates, and then use a set up similar to the Eisenhower Tunnel - before the bridge, set up traffic signals with sensors. If a truck is over height, an alarm trips, the truck is diverted to a detour, then put back on their way. If the truck does not abide, railroad gates in front of the bridge will flip closed,  and the truck will crash into the gates. A dispatch crew can clear the truck, and a detour crew to guide the truck (if needed).
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wdcrft63

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I live in Durham, and I think folks here are actually kind of fond of this bridge. It's a local street, not a numbered highway, and it's really not that hard to avoid. Here's a street view of the bridge:
https://goo.gl/maps/kp2W1
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mwb1848

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A real part of the problem is that it's part of a one-way couplet. Greggerson Street goes south; Duke Street goes north. Greggerson crosses under, Duke crosses over. I'd recommend undoing the couplet at least as far north as West Main Street and adding signage that doesn't just prohibit southbound vehicles over 11'8" from using Greggerson, but directs them use use the at-grade crossing on Duke.

As it is, there is no nearby, intuitive alternative for southbound traffic to get to the other side of the crossing en route to the Durham Freeway.
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1995hoo

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There are quite a few videos of professional drivers hitting the Durham bridge.

There's not really much reason for students moving their stuff to use that road because it doesn't offer a logical connection for most students going to or from university-owned housing. Duke is a little unusual in that over 90% of undergrads live on-campus.
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The reason always cited that the street cannot simply be dug out to increase the clearance, is that there is sewer infrastructure very close to the surface. So the only way would be to raise the railroad.

What baffles me about this is that NCDOT, North Carolina Railroad, Norfolk Southern, and the city of Durham are planning a major grade separation project in downtown Durham that involves raising the railroad, but Gregson is not a part of it! The bridges at Roxboro Rd and I think Chapel Hill St will be raised (fixing clearance issues there too) and new split-grade separations (where the RR is raised and the road is lowered) will be built at Blackwell and Mangum.

If they extended the project about 1/2 mile further west, they could do a split-grade separation of Duke Street (Lower Duke ~10' + Raise RR 10'), and raise the railroad by about 5ft at Gregson achieving about 3ft of additional clearance and simultaneously upgrading the old fashioned bridge to a modern ballast-deck design

The Amtrak platform would have to be raised, perhaps 10' higher than its present configuration. It will have to be rebuilt anyway when they double track through here, rasing it 10' affords an opportunity to build an underpass to safely access a new center island platform.
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Henry

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Here's another brilliant idea:

Before the intersections that immediately precede the bridge on either side, put up signs that say LOW CLEARANCE/ALL TRUCKS OVER 11'8" MUST TURN RIGHT/LEFT. This way, truckers will be forced to follow a route that will more likely make their route longer, but at least it'll be worth it, compared to crashing through the bridge.
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hbelkins

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Here's another brilliant idea:

Before the intersections that immediately precede the bridge on either side, put up signs that say LOW CLEARANCE/ALL TRUCKS OVER 11'8" MUST TURN RIGHT/LEFT. This way, truckers will be forced to follow a route that will more likely make their route longer, but at least it'll be worth it, compared to crashing through the bridge.

That still requires them to read and comprehend the signs, which if they complied with the signs already posted, wouldn't be a problem.
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Sykotyk

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Here's another brilliant idea:

Before the intersections that immediately precede the bridge on either side, put up signs that say LOW CLEARANCE/ALL TRUCKS OVER 11'8" MUST TURN RIGHT/LEFT. This way, truckers will be forced to follow a route that will more likely make their route longer, but at least it'll be worth it, compared to crashing through the bridge.

That still requires them to read and comprehend the signs, which if they complied with the signs already posted, wouldn't be a problem.

And for the non-professional truck drivers... they have to realize the sign applies to them. I know I saw a camper hauled by a pickup and many moving trucks.

I doubt none of those people knew the height of their vehicle or that they were anywhere near close enough to touch the bridge.
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wdcrft63

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A real part of the problem is that it's part of a one-way couplet. Greggerson Street goes south; Duke Street goes north. Greggerson crosses under, Duke crosses over. I'd recommend undoing the couplet at least as far north as West Main Street and adding signage that doesn't just prohibit southbound vehicles over 11'8" from using Greggerson, but directs them use use the at-grade crossing on Duke.

As it is, there is no nearby, intuitive alternative for southbound traffic to get to the other side of the crossing en route to the Durham Freeway.

It's Gregson St., not Greggerson. As things are now, southbound trucks need to use Buchanan Boulevard, about two blocks west. It might be possible to improve Duke St. to be 2-way (it's not as easy as repainting lanes) but if that were done I'd be in favor of closing the underpass altogether. This would have the advantage of taking traffic off Vickers Avenue, which is where Gregson traffic goes further south.
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