Skip

What part of "low clearance" do you NOT understand?
October 29, 2012 7:39 PM   Subscribe

11FOOT8.com is a site dedicated to documenting a single 11'8" railroad trestle over a street in Durham, North Carolina and the trucks (and sometimes RVs) taller than 11'8" that fail to pass through underneath (or sometimes do pass through, just with pieces lost). Now over 30 crashes have been compiled into a three-minute video of (dare I? I dare.) The Bridge's Greatest Hits.
posted by oneswellfoop (113 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
I like that most of these trucks are at just the right height that they don't really have a truck-stopping accident, they just have the roof of their trailer peeled off like a cartoon sardine can.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 7:44 PM on October 29, 2012 [11 favorites]


It's Ryder and it's wrong.
posted by Flashman at 7:45 PM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Rental trucks, people moving who aren't used to the height and are thinking about other things like what a pain inthe ass it is to move.. A big hazard. Every time I've rented a moving truck I've been so so paranoid about doing this.
posted by Miko at 7:46 PM on October 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


You owe me a keyboard, and a glass of wine! Math, people, it's just Math.....
posted by HuronBob at 7:46 PM on October 29, 2012


My dad, brother and I were driving along North Ave in Chicago once, behind this truck that had a drill bit attached to an arm on the back of it, so the 'elbow' of the arm was sticking up as the highest point of the truck. It smacked into the el tracks, the front of the truck tipped up and the drill bit drove into the road. Nearly as amusing was the fact the hole in the road stayed for months, so we'd have a laugh about the truck every time we went past.
posted by hoyland at 7:47 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


This why you always buy the insurance when you rent a truck to move.
posted by Grumpy old geek at 7:49 PM on October 29, 2012 [11 favorites]


That website is certainly a smashing success.
posted by thewalrus at 7:49 PM on October 29, 2012


The wheelies are the funniest, if I pretend that nobody got hurt. My favorite is the one at 1:50.
posted by entropone at 7:52 PM on October 29, 2012


Just south of where I live is the "Dexter railroad bridge" Frequently we have trucks stuck under it, we also have pickup trucks with extended mirrors passing each other under the bridge and ripping each other's mirrors off. Usually they just keep going....
posted by HuronBob at 7:53 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Has anyone ever measured the bridge recently, to make sure it's not ... ya know, 11'6"?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:54 PM on October 29, 2012 [10 favorites]


I was surprised at how many trucks seem to be 11'9".
posted by OHenryPacey at 7:54 PM on October 29, 2012 [12 favorites]


The funniest part of the compilation video had to be the TWO trucks with haybales stacked too high at 00:50. But right after, at 01:00, I felt very awkward about the one labeled "TWO MEN AND A TRUCK (Movers Who Care)"... because if it's not part of a big operation of 200 men and 100 trucks, it would now be "TWO MEN WALKING".
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:56 PM on October 29, 2012 [10 favorites]


I have used Two Men and a Truck for multiple moves and they have always been super speedy and efficient movers. I guess I have just been lucky that none of the places to which I've moved had a low bridge en route from old place to new place.
posted by winna at 7:57 PM on October 29, 2012


Should I take 'em to the bridge? Take 'em to the bridge? (Go 'head!) hit me now!
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 7:57 PM on October 29, 2012 [18 favorites]


I love the ones who just keep driving. And the truck driver who completely fucks up his (rental?) truck, backs up, and heads off down the side street.

However, I can also sympathize -- bridges are sometimes labeled lower than they really are, or lower than their high point in the center, so really you often can squeak under even though the sign says you shouldn't.
posted by Forktine at 7:59 PM on October 29, 2012


You'd think they'd put up one of those swinging warning signs, the kind that's the same height as the bridge. If a vehicle would hit the bridge it first hits the sign. No more guessing and hoping.
posted by jedicus at 8:00 PM on October 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


jedicus: read the FAQ - apparently it's not feasible, because vehicles higher than 11'8" need to go down that side street. However, there are lights that flash when a vehicle that is overheight approaches, but some people apparently don't pay attention to them.
posted by zsazsa at 8:02 PM on October 29, 2012


I saw this happen once here in Chicago. It was hilarious. I mean, crappy and all...but omg hilarious. The top crumpled up like an accordion and it made a really loud noise and there were sparks and IT WAS JUST HILARIOUS, OK.

If you're wondering why people keep smacking into this thing (and I'll give the rental truck drivers a pass because they don't know, but the semi drivers most certainly should know how tall their trucks are), it's because most of these signs underestimate the height pretty significantly just to be safe. I think most experienced drivers just assume it's actually taller. Or they're all morons.

Rob Cockerham measured a bunch of them a few years ago (can't find it now, though) and I think that undershooting was pretty typical.
posted by phunniemee at 8:02 PM on October 29, 2012


I was surprised at how many trucks seem to be 11'9".

I wonder if this isn't negligence on the part of the city, that if a standard 5-ton truck is 11'-9" or 12' high, they don't just regrade the road surface to allow these trucks to pass safely.
posted by Flashman at 8:03 PM on October 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


This happens in front of MIT regularly during student move season, even though there are warning signs with heavy chains hanging to rattle the truck a few block ahead of the underpass. Gotta be real embarrassing if it's a civil engineering grad, but probably from the other side of the river.
posted by sammyo at 8:03 PM on October 29, 2012


This happened recently in Des Moines, but the truck was tall enough and going fast enough that it dislodged an entire girder. The woman in the next lane almost died.
posted by TrialByMedia at 8:08 PM on October 29, 2012


BULL CITY!
posted by zscore at 8:08 PM on October 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


This why you always buy the insurance when you rent a truck to move.

I'll bet the insurance probably explicitly states that if you ignore the warning signs about tunnel heights, you're on your own.
posted by neilbert at 8:09 PM on October 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I wonder if this isn't negligence on the part of the city, that if a standard 5-ton truck is 11'-9" or 12' high, they don't just regrade the road surface to allow these trucks to pass safely.

From the 11foot8 FAQ:
Can't the road be lowered?

That would be prohibitively expensive because a sewer main runs just a few feet below the road bed. That sewer main also dates back about a hundred years and, again, at the time there were no real standards for minimum clearance for railroad underpasses.
posted by RichardP at 8:17 PM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


apparently it's not feasible, because vehicles higher than 11'8" need to go down that side street.

I don't see why that would be a problem. Presumably delivery drivers on their normal routes would know to ignore the low clearance bar.
posted by jedicus at 8:17 PM on October 29, 2012


Flashman: I wonder if this isn't negligence on the part of the city, that if a standard 5-ton truck is 11'-9" or 12' high, they don't just regrade the road surface to allow these trucks to pass safely."

Standard trailers are 13' 6". Straight trucks are shorter, usually about 12' 6", though they can be shorter. This is pretty much driver negligence, at least for the professional drivers.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:17 PM on October 29, 2012


I laughed, but I think I also saw several peoples' livelihoods destroyed. I know if I were moving and I hadn't bought the insurance because I was already pretty broke and I were suddenly on the hook for whatever it costs to put the top back on a U-Haul, that would fuck up my life pretty bad. Not to mention if I fucked up a truck that I needed to run my small business, or if I were a trucker and lost my job because I crashed a company vehicle. I mean, it's funny (the soundtrack helps) but it's also kinda sad. I feel like the cost of all those accidents has got to be higher than the cost of just finding a way to raise the trestle or something.
posted by Scientist at 8:22 PM on October 29, 2012 [11 favorites]


Most of these tricks seem to be empty. I think what's happening is they squeeze by in one direction while loaded down, and are an inch or two too high on the way back. A swinging gate wouldn't work unless it was lower than the bridge. (And, when hit, caused a flashing arm to come down across the road)
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 8:23 PM on October 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't see why that would be a problem. Presumably delivery drivers on their normal routes would know to ignore the low clearance bar.

And presumably repeatedly hitting a low clearance bar or chains every day wouldn't be good for those trucks either.
posted by zsazsa at 8:24 PM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I feel like the cost of all those accidents has got to be higher than the cost of just finding a way to raise the trestle or something.

You can't raise the trestle. The railbed has to be flat. They could lower the roadbed beneath the bridge, but it would be very expensive, and they'd have to close the road for a couple of days.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:26 PM on October 29, 2012


And before anyone asks, "Even if expensive, wouldn't it be less than the cost of all those trucks?"

Yeah, but it isn't the same money. The expense of fixing the road would be the state, or the county. The trucks are all private money. So it won't happen until a school bus becomes a victim. Then it'll happen toot sweet.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:28 PM on October 29, 2012


I laughed. I'd have laughed harder, but I remember the incident of My Dad, the Thule Rack (That He Forgot Was on the Van), and the Bank Drive-Through.
posted by feckless at 8:28 PM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Um, railbeds don't have to be perfectly flat. Trains will go up a ramp, though admittedly it has to be a pretty shallow grade. Or am I missing something incredibly obvious here? There may be a reason why it's impractical to raise the railbed, but "trains can't go up ramps" isn't it.
posted by Scientist at 8:29 PM on October 29, 2012


You see a bridge, I see a can opener.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 8:29 PM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Um, railbeds don't have to be perfectly flat. Trains will go up a ramp, though admittedly it has to be a pretty shallow grade. Or am I missing something incredibly obvious here? There may be a reason why it's impractical to raise the railbed, but "trains can't go up ramps" isn't it.

It's that trains need extremely gradual grades, so you'd have to rebuild the train tracks over a very long distance on each side of that bridge. It would be cheaper to lower the road, and cheaper yet again to put up a sign and some flashing lights.
posted by Forktine at 8:33 PM on October 29, 2012


We have a tricky bridge like this close to where I live. The sneaky part is that the road dips down significantly to get under the bridge, but then rises back up on the other side. If your truck is short enough then you can squeak by. But too long and you'll make it halfway under the bridge, start to rise on the other side, and get pinned.

See it happen about once a month. There's a grocery store a mile down the road and most of the victims are delivery trucks.
posted by sbutler at 8:33 PM on October 29, 2012


This why you always buy the insurance when you rent a truck to move.

I know if I were moving and I hadn't bought the insurance because I was already pretty broke and I were suddenly on the hook for whatever it costs to put the top back on a U-Haul, that would fuck up my life pretty bad.

The insurance from U-Haul specifically excludes any damage from this kind of mistake.
posted by scose at 8:34 PM on October 29, 2012


It's that trains need extremely gradual grades, so you'd have to rebuild the train tracks over a very long distance on each side of that bridge. It would be cheaper to lower the road, and cheaper yet again to put up a sign and some flashing lights.

What are the odds that the railbed is publicly owned? Or is this a situation where Union Pacific (or whoever) owns the track, but not the land it's on? Because regrading the track seems like it'd be a hard sell to the railway company.
posted by hoyland at 8:37 PM on October 29, 2012


The FAQ says that the railbed is owned by Norfolk Southern Railroad, and that as far as they are concerned the problem was solved by installing a big I-beam to prevent all the crashing trucks from damaging their tracks.
posted by Scientist at 8:39 PM on October 29, 2012 [20 favorites]


I subscribe to this dude's youtube channel. He has a FAQ about it...essentially, to drive into the bridge, you have to ignore several warning signs, a height-registering warning which flashes at you, all starting a block away from the bridge.

I think it's two things. One is that guys in campers don't actually know how high their rig is with the A/C units on top, etc. And truck rental guys definitely don't.

I'd be absolutely shocked if all delivery companies and rental agencies in the area don't verbally point this bridge out to their drivers/renters and make them sign something to the affect of "THIS LOW BRIDGE IS HERE, DON'T GO THAT WAY, YOU HIT IT, YOU PAY."

In Seattle, the Arboretum has an overpass like this, and the local truck rental companies absolutely ask if you're going to Madison Park or environs. At least they did last time I rented anything.
posted by maxwelton at 8:39 PM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


You'd think they'd put up one of those swinging warning signs

What's obnoxious is, they appear to have one, right in front of the bridge, but it's too high. You can see it swinging in the video. Trucks clear it with ease, and then smack the bridge.

I think the whole thing is sponsored by Bubba's Truck Body, just out of frame.
posted by Fnarf at 8:41 PM on October 29, 2012


Also I would like to point out that it's been a long time since I've seen such a butt-ugly website. That's a real prize-winner right there.
posted by Scientist at 8:44 PM on October 29, 2012


The FAQ says that the railbed is owned by Norfolk Southern Railroad, and that as far as they are concerned the problem was solved by installing a big I-beam to prevent all the crashing trucks from damaging their tracks.

That is such a classic railroad attitude. On the one hand, they are intensely awful to try and work with because they are so utterly inflexible and have an insanely narrow view of the world. And yet, you have to admire an entire industry that engenders such singlemindedness in its employees.
posted by Forktine at 8:47 PM on October 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


So if it's not economical to lower the road and it's not economical to raise the tracks, why aren't they putting more lights and such on that bridge? I mean, I get that it's well-marked already but if trucks are crashing into it on a monthly basis then it's clearly not well-marked enough. Can't they put some big strobes and such on there, maybe put up some billboards leading up to the bridge showing what has happened to other people who thought they could squeak under? Surely even the dimmest driver would take notice if they saw a half-dozen giant pictures of crashed trucks accompanied by "LOW BRIDGE AHEAD" signs.
posted by Scientist at 8:57 PM on October 29, 2012


Are you kidding? They could have a checkpoint you have to wait an hour to get through, with guys in white gloves and a giant novelty measuring tape and there would STILL be people driving into that bridge once a month.
posted by danny the boy at 9:04 PM on October 29, 2012 [29 favorites]


Yeah, the FAQ states that trucks driving up to the bridge and then heeding the warnings and turning away is a daily occurrence. I don't see what else the city can do.
posted by edeezy at 9:10 PM on October 29, 2012


C'mon, there's gotta be a solution. This is not that hard a problem. There are a million things they could do if they actually thought about it. A road feature that causes one accident per month all by itself is inexcusable, there has to be a way to improve the situation.
posted by Scientist at 9:14 PM on October 29, 2012


The cost of raising railroad tracks is enormous. You'd have the tracks out of use for quite some time even with expedited construction. And you don't just "raise the bridge". You have to raise the tracks for a couple hundred yards on either side of the bridge. You then have the sticky problem of how to raise the bridge itself. Ordinarily you'd shut everything down, tear out the old and build a new one. But that would take the tracks out for a very long time.

If you have the right of way width, you could install new bridge to one side, put new tracks on it, then switch to the new track. After that you just tear the old bridge down. But it looks like there might be only room for one set of tracks. Raising the bridge with just one set of tracks on a narrow right of way can be done, but it gets really, really tricky. You could do some really unorthodox solution involving physically lifting the existing bridge and installing structural shims on the existing abutments. There's hardly an engineer in the world would do that, and you'd have a small army of lawyers camping out there hoping to put their kids through college. No way in hell would the local or state DOT do that.

It would actually be much more realistic to lower the grade on the road. Even with the sewer there (provided there is *some* room to the top of the sewer), you open the sewer and install a reinforced concrete culvert. The lid of the culvert would be reinforced concrete, and would actually be the road surface/bed as well. Not entirely orthodox, but much less expensive than messing with the RR tracks.

You'd have to grade the street approaches to the bridge, which could cause drainage problems at the bridge itself. If that is existing sanitary sewer, you keep the storm sewer separate and install a sump pump. If the existing sewer is storm sewer, you can drain right into it, but you could be getting into flooding issues there.

Or - you build an elevated road bridge over the railroad tracks. It's the simplest engineering solution, and would be goddawfully expensive.

Another option would be to shut down the road to vehicles completely. Let bikes and pedestrians through, and reroute vehicle traffic.
posted by Xoebe at 9:15 PM on October 29, 2012 [11 favorites]


If you have a pretty tall truck it's a good idea to like read the signs at any bridge and decide whether your truck would fit.

If you underestimate the size of your truck that's one thing, but people actually ignoring or not seeing the sign -- I hate to think what other random items they could fail to see while driving.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 9:16 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's a crazy idea: why not reduce the clearance to something obviously unfeasible like 7-8'? There's another crossing nearby, so it's not like a lot of utility is being sacrificed, and lowering that i-beam is cheap compared to the alternatives.
posted by mikedouglas at 9:24 PM on October 29, 2012 [8 favorites]


Well if you reduce it to 7'8" then vans and other things that are say, 8'3" will just crash into it instead.
posted by Scientist at 9:28 PM on October 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


Howzabout this: When the sensor detects an approaching vehicle that's too high, spikes rise from the road and shred the approaching vehicle's tires, thereby instantly lowering it by 8" to 12". Problem solved.

Now excuse me while I buy a nearby storefront and convert it to a tire store...
posted by mosk at 9:37 PM on October 29, 2012 [15 favorites]


Could they not rotate the vehicles 90 degrees using some sort of offset anti-gravity machine? I mean COME ON, the guy with the $10,000 suit can't come up with ALL the ideas!
posted by blue_beetle at 9:54 PM on October 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


My absolute favorite is the RV driver at about 2:20, who realizes there's a problem but apparently thinks it can be solved by driving slower.
posted by teraflop at 10:16 PM on October 29, 2012


Similarly: the Windoc colliding with Bridge 11.
posted by unliteral at 10:21 PM on October 29, 2012


Howzabout this: When the sensor detects an approaching vehicle that's too high, spikes rise from the road and shred the approaching vehicle's tires, thereby instantly lowering it by 8" to 12". Problem solved.

My town has a low railroad bridge like this, but it's even more indestructible since it has earthworks right up to the edge of the road. The city finally decided to put a big metal frame over the road, about 25 feet in front of the bridge, with big signs warning about the height, and heavy metal chains that descend to a couple of inches below the bridge height. So if you're going to hit the bridge, you'll hit the chains first, hear the bang, and hopefully slow down in time.

Before that, trucks used to get wedged under the bridge all the time. Sometimes the tow trucks had a hard time pulling them out until one day, someone pointed out that you could just deflate the tires a bit, and it would lower the whole truck a few inches. Brilliant. That became part of the lore of the low bridge.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:23 PM on October 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Similarly: the Windoc colliding with Bridge 11.

And there's this.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:27 PM on October 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


I was delighted but not surprised to learn that there's a French site for the tunnel at the Place de l'Étoile.
posted by swerve at 10:29 PM on October 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


It would actually be much more realistic to lower the grade on the road. Even with the sewer there (provided there is *some* room to the top of the sewer), you open the sewer and install a reinforced concrete culvert. The lid of the culvert would be reinforced concrete, and would actually be the road surface/bed as well. Not entirely orthodox, but much less expensive than messing with the RR tracks.

Those concrete box culverts are 18" thick though and the sewer pipe is reportedly a "few feet" below the road bed. And the concrete presumably can't sit right on the pipe. So you might spend a lot of money to gain 8" or so of clearance.
posted by fshgrl at 10:58 PM on October 29, 2012


You know what? I just looked up "windoc" in Wikipedia. There were two ships by that name, and they both collided with bridges on the Welland Canal.

MS Windoc (1899) did it in 1938.
MS Windoc (1959) did it in 2001.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:05 PM on October 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hang a wall of 3'8" chains from the front of the bridge. Adjust all the signs to read "8 foot clearance, cars only". Anyone between 8'-11' goes through, they get chain scrapes on top but make it through otherwise intact.
posted by fings at 11:23 PM on October 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


The story of the 2001 MS Windoc collision deserves further note. Also, boatnerd.com is pretty awesome.
posted by wobh at 11:43 PM on October 29, 2012


I want to see the companion site -- a webcam trained on the truck rental place when these people bring them back looking like an opened sardine can.
posted by Rhomboid at 11:56 PM on October 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


For years I worked next to a notorious train bridge that snagged trucks regularly. We'd hear the crunch and dash out to laugh. One time the truck in question was completely loaded with scrap paper. I've never seen so much confetti in my life.

Of course, on a less jolly note there's this.
posted by kinnakeet at 12:53 AM on October 30, 2012


I wonder if there's a way to use sensors on a gantry to determine the height of vehicles passing underneath. If a vehicle is too high, the height could flash on a sign like those speed detecting signs.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 1:32 AM on October 30, 2012


Pruitt-Igoe, the lighted sign in front of the trestle doesn't flash unless you're over-height. Part of the problem here is that the road seems quite busy and it's nearly impossible to do anything really dramatic when the truck is 30 feet behind six cars all about to go under the bridge.
posted by maxwelton at 1:36 AM on October 30, 2012


I say leave the bridge as-is. It doesn't appear to be seriously injuring anyone, and these videos are pretty amusing.
posted by ryanrs at 1:42 AM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Scientist: "(the soundtrack helps)"
No it doesn't. The soundtrack means the video is blocked here. (And YT Unblocker can't fix it, for whatever reason.)

Soundtracks, people. Just say no.
posted by brokkr at 2:22 AM on October 30, 2012


I always imagine something like this is going on just before the accidents:

Murdock : We have clearance Clarence.
Oever : Roger, Roger. What's our Vector Victor?
Tower : Tower's radio clearance, over!
Oever : That's Clarence Oever! Oever.
Tower : Roger.
Murdock : Huh?
Tower : Roger, over.
Murdock : Huh?
Oever : Huh?
posted by MuffinMan at 2:38 AM on October 30, 2012


> That is such a classic railroad attitude. On the one hand, they are intensely awful to try and work with because they are so utterly inflexible and have an insanely narrow view of the world. And yet, you have to admire an entire industry that engenders such singlemindedness in its employees.

Railroads deal exclusively with industrial accounts. Their employees have to make their employers and customers happy, not you. Since you can't really boycott a railroad, they know they don't have to appease you.

Incidentally, Gregson is in the middle of Durham, between the city center and the Duke University campus. It's a small street but one of the main ways trucks get onto the Rt. 147 highway from the warehouses downtown, so closing the street wouldn't be awesome. If you close the train tracks, don't think you'll have the city and the locals behind you either: you not only affect all freight coming into the city, you also shut down Amtrak's line for the duration.
posted by ardgedee at 3:04 AM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


People who rent trucks and other casual drivers, just remember, "Truck Can't Duck". Use it as a mantra every time you see a bridge height or overhead awning, etc and your day will be much happier. Honest.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 3:05 AM on October 30, 2012


I used to drive trucks cross-country with oversized loads. This was back in the 1980's. I had an interstate bridge book that showed the heights of all the low bridges. I used to hit some that I should've cleared according to the information in the book. This was usually because the road had been re-asphalted thus adding an inch or two.
posted by rmmcclay at 3:15 AM on October 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


Being the 3rd car behind one of these mental midgets when you're in a hurry is THE definition of being screwed. Basically, clear your calendar and wait.
posted by littleredwagon at 3:22 AM on October 30, 2012


"Even if expensive, wouldn't it be less than the cost of all those trucks?"

No. Not by a long shot. Public works projects are expensive. We're looking at a multi-million dollar project. Could easily run to $10 million. Even if every vehicle that hit the bridge incurred $10,000 in damage, we're still looking at a million impacts to justify the expense. At one a day, we're looking at 2,700 years.
posted by valkyryn at 3:52 AM on October 30, 2012


valk,

You're off by three orders of magnitude. $10K of damage requires only 1,000 incidents.
posted by effugas at 3:57 AM on October 30, 2012


Or a thousand impacts and 2.7 years.
posted by Etrigan at 3:58 AM on October 30, 2012


You mean 1,000 accidents at $10k each.
posted by ShutterBun at 4:14 AM on October 30, 2012


Better avoid bridges, valkyryn. ;)
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:38 AM on October 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Math error! 15 yard penalty, and your entire argument is invalid!
posted by cotterpin at 4:53 AM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love how the wikipedia entry describes the collision:

On 11 August 2001, while traveling through the Welland Canal, Windoc was hit by Bridge 11 in Allanburg, Ontario.

Like the ship was just sitting there and this bridge came along and rammed into it. Totally the bridge's fault.

I can't even believe this is some nautical custom, like "the sandbar beached the ship." No, the ship hit the bridge.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:02 AM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


We are talking about a bridge in Durham, so valkyryn was probably getting his math from the Duke Mathematics department. #wolfpack
posted by Rock Steady at 5:07 AM on October 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Did you watch the video, charlie don't surf? The bridge was lowered while the ship was still underneath. Like someone closing a garage door before the car is all the way in.
posted by clorox at 5:29 AM on October 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


it's because most of these signs underestimate the height pretty significantly just to be safe.

It's also because future road resurfacing can take inches away from the height.
posted by odinsdream at 5:37 AM on October 30, 2012


Well if you reduce it to 7'8" then vans and other things that are say, 8'3" will just crash into it instead.

Are there really many vans right over 8'? It doesn't seem like a very common height for any kind of vehicle. Certainly it is rarer for a vehicle to be just over 8' than to be just over 12'.

I think reducing the clearance to something very low like that is the best idea in this thread.
posted by enn at 5:37 AM on October 30, 2012


The bridge was lowered while the ship was still underneath. Like someone closing a garage door before the car is all the way in.

Shhh don't spoil his perfectly valid knee jerk reaction with facts.
posted by Authorized User at 5:46 AM on October 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


someone pointed out that you could just deflate the tires a bit, and it would lower the whole truck a few inches.

I remember reading a riddle like that when I was a kid.
posted by box at 5:49 AM on October 30, 2012


I saw a truck wedged under here just the other day! I think a cop was writing the guy a ticket.
posted by leesh at 6:08 AM on October 30, 2012


Those concrete box culverts are 18" thick though and the sewer pipe is reportedly a "few feet" below the road bed. And the concrete presumably can't sit right on the pipe. So you might spend a lot of money to gain 8" or so of clearance.

I think the suggestion was to replace the current sewer pipe with a box culvert, not cover the pipe with the culvert. I agree that it would still probably not save much height, but even six inches would have helped some of those trucks. The cost would be huge (although cheaper than changing the train tracks) and you'd have to deal with roadbed regrading (and repaving, reworking drainage, dealing with all other buried utilities, etc) for some distance on each side of the bridge in order to not have too severe of a pitch down into and up out of the dip.

And you'd have to get the railroad to sign off on the road work under their bridge and find a way to do the work that doesn't a) compromise the bridge structure and b) doesn't impact the railroad's use of that bridge during construction. I"m not going to say that that is impossible, but you'd better have a huge engineering budget and be ready to be in meetings for the next couple of years. There may well be bridge footers right where this proposed box culvert would need to go, for example, which is a solvable engineering problem but not a cheap or easy one.

Seriously, the big steel girder to protect the bridge, plus the warning signs and flashing lights, is far and away the cheapest option, and is probably fine from a legal standpoint in case someone gets killed or injured while crashing their truck and there is a lawsuit.
posted by Forktine at 6:20 AM on October 30, 2012


We have our own version of this bridge (and it is even lower-10'5"). My favorite truck decapitation story is one where the driver knew he couldn't fit, but figured if he drove fast enough the truck would somehow (aerodynamics maybe? he never really explained the thought process) be pushed down enough to make it under.
posted by TedW at 6:34 AM on October 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


maxwelton: "One is that guys in campers don't actually know how high their rig is with the A/C units on top, etc. And truck rental guys definitely don't."

The trucks I've rented all had their height prominently marked for the driver, inside the cab around the top of the windscreen. Of course it's easy to disregard this if you're used to driving a car where the height isn't an issue, as I know from experience (many years ago I hit a low tree limb which broke off and bounced off the nose of the truck).
posted by exogenous at 6:57 AM on October 30, 2012


We have two low trestles in town. A house came up for sale a couple of years ago, right across the road from the 13" one, and I was mightily tempted to buy it so I could install a webcam pointing down into the cab... I could record the look on the drivers' faces for posterity. Unfortunately, Himself was unwilling to move house just so I could get a new and cruelly amusing hobby. He never lets me have any fun.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 6:57 AM on October 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


I really like the idea of 2 or 3 feet of dangling chains, or maybe some other material that is less damaging but equally obscuring (some kind of Tyvek streamers maybe?). Then you post 8' clearance (or whatever). This prevents the casual driver from plowing on through, as it is immediately visually apparent that you are not going to make it. If you are 8'2" or even 9', and it looks like you might just make it under the chains, you will make it under the bridge no problem.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:11 AM on October 30, 2012


Seems to be loosely based off of its Parisian equivalent, 2m40 (previously on MetaFilter).

It seems like that particular underpass has a truck wedged into it more often than not.

Coincidentally, I witnessed one such accident when visiting Paris a few years ago, and assumed that it was a funny fluke, as I've never visited the area before or since then. Now I know it's apparently a (constant) part of the scenery. Weird.
posted by schmod at 7:26 AM on October 30, 2012


When I was in high school, we took a field trip to Washington, DC and stopped at some fort in Virginia on the way. While there we had to pass under a low hanging archway. The bus caught on the arch, and my teacher gunned it, ripping off the emergency exit on the bus and dislodging a bunch of bricks in the arch. We sped off, passing some MPs going to other way with sirens on, presumably responding to our accident. We spent the rest of the trip with a giant hole in the roof.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:40 AM on October 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


For comparison, Minnesota DOT is getting ready to replace an aging railroad bridge in Northeast Minneapolis. (Project Site). This is a simpler job than what would be needed here, just replace the bridge, no regrading or sewer work or anything that I'm aware of.

It's been decided that train traffic cannot be stopped on this route during construction, so the project is building a "shoofly" to reroute trains while the bridge is being rebuilt. This means building a monster earthen berm to the side, setting tracks on the giant dirtpile, and letting the trains run down that side track until the new bridge is ready.

And that means that Central Avenue, one of the main routes out of downtown and the largest thoroughfare in Northeast, will be blocked off for most of a year by the "shoofly", starting next summer. One side argued that "this is a traffic nightmare, it'll be terrible for the neighborhood", the other side argued "trains are freaking important and they can't detour". Last I heard, the trains won.
posted by gimonca at 7:49 AM on October 30, 2012


This happens all the time in Boston. We have a huge itinerant population of students and young adults, and two of the main thoroughfares through the area are on opposite sides of the Charles River, where Memorial Drive and Storrow Drive both go through very low, very narrow underpasses for the surface traffic. September 1 is Moving Day in the area - it's like a city-wide game of musical chairs, and some of the local bloggers started a Truck Pool to guess where and when the first one would get stuck.

I sympathize a little bit, since I drive around the city all the time in my tiny little car and pay absolutely no attention to truck routes and height restrictions. The last time I moved myself, though, I got a small box van from UHaul and drove it right down Storrow without a care in the world - right until I drove under the first overpass. Luckily the van was small enough that it didn't hit, but that was a startling moment.

(Last year no one won the truck pool because the first one got stuck a day early in a covered parking lot.)
posted by backseatpilot at 7:58 AM on October 30, 2012


Who the hell ever looks up? Sure. I laughed.

I drove cross-country reefer vans for several years. I had to by a "Low Bridge" directory for Chicago. Sometimes I had to call the local dispatcher to get a route from the Interstate to his dock. Mostly, I heard, the problem was that every time they repave a road, it elevates it an inch or two. Can't re-dig the roadbed in most places in the city limits. Some tunnels are fun, too. Especially those which are marked at the apex, but not over the breakdown lane.

Driving on surface roads in Chicago is a thrill, even when you have good directions. I have had to get my co-driver to walk behind the truck for several blocks, while I backed up so I could adjust to a local eccentricity. Big trucks are fun, but not funny, when you are figuring out how to get between two rows of parked cars in an urban area.

Then there was the time the cargo ship hit the Hwy 101 bridge over the channel at North Bend, Oregon. (The ship Master forgot to pull in his cranes to get under the bridge.) Moved the bridge six inches, ruinied one of the cranes on the ship. For the six months it took to fix the bridge, traffic on Hwy 101 was routed around the bay on a two-lane road that didn't even have shoulders most of the way. Local residents were thrilled--bumper to bumper tourists and trucks, day and night. The ship's master was determined to have been conversing with Jim Beam at the time of the collision. I think his next job involved making sure the bag had fries in it.
posted by mule98J at 8:02 AM on October 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


'[Richard] Harris's lifelong love of booze was instilled in him from an early age. One of his favourite teenage tales involved driving a massive haulage truck to Dublin at 17, on an errand for his dad.

Despite his orders to be back home promptly, he headed for the nearest pub after making the delivery.

A few drinks later, Harris set off and soon up ahead was a bridge warning "Clearance, 12 feet".

Thinking he could just make it, he sped on, but ran straight into the superstructure, lifting it clean off its pillars.

Flagged down by a policeman, Harris opened his window and shouted: "Sorry, officer. You see, I'm just delivering this bridge to Limerick."'
posted by steef at 8:14 AM on October 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


Most of these tricks seem to be empty. I think what's happening is they squeeze by in one direction while loaded down, and are an inch or two too high on the way back.

The road is one-way. Perhaps they make this error because they got under a different, higher bridge en route to wherever they dropped the load and don't realize the return route differs.
posted by carmicha at 10:22 AM on October 30, 2012


Good point. I didn't realize the road was one-way.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:57 AM on October 30, 2012


If the truck is too tall, seems like the road is "no way".
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:35 PM on October 30, 2012


Railroads deal exclusively with industrial accounts. Their employees have to make their employers and customers happy, not you. Since you can't really boycott a railroad, they know they don't have to appease you.

That's part of it, but the real issue -- at least in the US -- is that most railroads only have to answer to the federal government. There is virtually no local government that can do anything other than ask a railroad politely for whatever. Cities generally can't get crossings fixed, can't get changes made to crossing gates for safety, can't get schedules changed, and (in a lot of cases) can barely get railroads to make a virtually no-cost change to how they sound the horn for crossings (they have a Supreme Court ruling on their side). My city has an ordinance about trains blocking crossings that is only enforceable if a cop comes and the train continues to block the crossing for 15 minutes after he arrives to start timing.

So the uphill battle to get a railroad to, say, re-engineer an entire line to accomodate raising a single bridge is considerable.

I wonder if this isn't negligence on the part of the city

The city has no legal duty to provide an opening large enough for any given vehicle that a citizen chooses to drive. Even if they did, the viaduct would likely be grandfathered in. This one in question has probably been there -- in right-of-way terms -- since before the automobile was invented.

That is such a classic railroad attitude.

Well, again, they were there first in many or most cases, and second, they pretty much don't have to answer to local authorities. Being flexible to the point of more than politely listening to municipal concerns would end up costing them millions and millions of dollars.
posted by dhartung at 3:34 PM on October 30, 2012


I used to work right next to this trestle, once had a collection of corkscrew-like metal shards. It was all fun and games...

Then one day the giant crane came through and wedged itself under the railroad tracks. Everybody was serious that day. Trains were stopped, traffic was backed up for miles, inspectors from the railroad walked up and down, up and down.

After that they installed a fairly substantial steel crossbar about 10 feet in front of the trestle. I'm sure that will do until the next crazy-big piece of machinery comes lumbering through.
posted by halcyon_daze at 5:52 PM on October 30, 2012


Here is a ridiculously low underpass (6'6") from my city. The Google car didn't even drive under it; there's only images from either side.

Haven't heard of anyone hitting it, but that could be because it's so low it's obvious you couldn't get a truck through there, and there's a level crossing 1 block to the east.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 6:05 PM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Instead of flashing yellow lights which don't seem to do the job, they should have a red / green stoplight that turns red for overheight vehicles. Eventually all the honking will get the driver to read the sign and turn.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:03 PM on October 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Instead of flashing yellow lights which don't seem to do the job, they should have a red / green stoplight that turns red for overheight vehicles. Eventually all the honking will get the driver to read the sign and turn.

I came here to post exactly this idea. Everybody stops for a red light; may people don't even notice flashing yellow ones.
posted by lostburner at 3:16 AM on October 31, 2012


Truck-smash porn is the only time on MetaFilter where it's appropriate to say "I'd hit that."
posted by drlith at 3:51 AM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Instead of flashing yellow lights which don't seem to do the job, they should have a red / green stoplight that turns red for overheight vehicles. Eventually all the honking will get the driver to read the sign and turn.

I came here to post exactly this idea. Everybody stops for a red light; may people don't even notice flashing yellow ones.


Everybody stops for a red light? Thank you, that's my bellylaugh for my morning out of the way.

Don't get me wrong, it would help, but even if you were to combine a red-light with a railroad crossing style gate arm lowering, you'd still get some joker who'd try to go around it.
posted by radwolf76 at 4:39 AM on October 31, 2012


Everybody stops for a red light? Thank you, that's my bellylaugh for my morning out of the way.

Cyclists should be low enough to go under the bridge without any problems.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:21 AM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know cyclists feel disproportionately called out for bad traffic etiquette, but that jab was entirely aimed at slackass motor vehicle drivers. Which is what this whole thread's been about, really, save for Xoebe's comment about closing this road to all but pedestrians and bikes.
posted by radwolf76 at 11:35 AM on October 31, 2012


I was very proud of myself for aborting before I destroyed that low stone pedestrian bridge on Lake Washington Blvd with my UHaul. Because I did not buy the insurance.
posted by jeffamaphone at 12:18 PM on October 31, 2012


Two dozen sticks of dynamite placed strategically under that bridge and set off at 3 am would result in a solution.

Eventually.
posted by notreally at 9:28 PM on October 31, 2012


Red lights mean stop. Yellow lights mean hurry up (before it turns red).
posted by mule98J at 8:23 AM on November 2, 2012


« Older "First freedom and then Glory - when that fails...   |   The "50-50" Proposition Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post