End Of A Karmic Era
October 19, 2019 9:07 AM   Subscribe

Durham, NC's famous (and infamous) 11' 8" Bridge, which has devoured numerous roofs of vehicles whose drivers failed to regard the ample warnings, will soon be no more, as the Durham Transportation Department has announced that the overpass is being raised.
posted by NoxAeternum (74 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
It happened before I was old enough to have personal memories of it, but when my family was moving to Charlotte the professional moving truck can-opened itself like this in the middle of the rain, leading to most everything we owned getting wrecked. I think some wood furniture survived, that's it. It could very well have been this bridge.

There's a companion-in-style series about people who hit their sailboat masts on bridges, often because they are trying to race the drawbridge and failing.
posted by BeeDo at 9:20 AM on October 19 [9 favorites]


.

Sam's gone, 11' 8" gone, what's the world coming to?
posted by Maecenas at 9:21 AM on October 19 [14 favorites]


About time.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:27 AM on October 19 [1 favorite]


As far as I know, Maecenas, they haven't raised the bridge by where Sam's used to be, so it will continue to rip open trucks. I don't think it has a webcam, though.
posted by hydropsyche at 9:27 AM on October 19


So this one no longer goes to 11'8"?
posted by chavenet at 9:33 AM on October 19 [20 favorites]


Gotta say this is sort of sad. I live all the way across the country but my son and I get a real kick out of watching the crash videos.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:34 AM on October 19 [5 favorites]


Would it be easier to lower the road?
posted by adzm at 9:36 AM on October 19 [4 favorites]


There's a major sewer line beneath the road, according to the wiki page.
posted by mark k at 9:37 AM on October 19 [4 favorites]


I've got mixed feelings. On the one hand, it's good that the city's doing this. The (relatively) recent upgrades they did, with added signs and a height detector that warns approaching trucks that they have to make a detour NOW do seem to have helped reduce the number of accidents. For a couple years now an overheight truck had, by definition, run a red light if they hit the bridge so aside from the damage they brought on themselves a moving vehicle offense. And on the weak other hand, that's the end of an era of online video entertainment.

As a local I feel like I have to point out that the city's had a lot of roadworks projects this year (which is good! The city's been booming, the roads have to keep up), but somewhat inconveniently they've all been on north-south routes simultaneously. Currently when I want to drive from home to downtown I have the option of detouring to one of the highways a few miles to the west or east of us, or a more direct route that involves sharing small residential roads with the thousands of other people trying to get between the center and south parts of town. Great planning.

> Would it be easier to lower the road?

This has been a thorn in the side of the city for decades. If there was an easier way to fix it, they would've done it before it before there was such a thing as a web memes.
posted by ardgedee at 9:45 AM on October 19 [7 favorites]


. (but especially for Sam's too, goddamnit)


On the other hand, the bridge survived long enough to be memorialized in Durham's only beer-serving indoor, local-landmark friendly minigolf course, so bonus.
posted by thivaia at 9:50 AM on October 19 [9 favorites]


Critical URL the FPP missed: The 11foot8 website. Which is basically an embed container for all the youtube videos, but also provides additional commentary and information, including reasons why the clearance hasn't been improved.

When there was a gas main explosion two blocks away, the 11foot8 camera recorded the shockwave.
posted by ardgedee at 9:55 AM on October 19 [9 favorites]


> . (but especially for Sam's too, goddamnit)

Sam's is not dead! They have a tap and a roof deck now, too.
posted by ardgedee at 9:56 AM on October 19 [2 favorites]


The final crash in that video is great.
posted by dobbs at 9:57 AM on October 19 [4 favorites]


The roof deck is great on new Sam's and conveniently located to all the errands I never want to run, but I still miss old Sam's though.
posted by thivaia at 9:58 AM on October 19 [2 favorites]


Good riddance. I drive a sedan and actively avoid that underpass because I am terrified of getting impaled by falling debris from some trucker following Waze. Drivers around here are bad enough without low-hanging bridges to boot.

When I was house-hunting, I looked at a place just down the street from the 11'8" but luckily someone had warned me about it when I came to interview for my no-longer-new job, so I looked at the house, looked at the map, and noped on out.
posted by basalganglia at 10:04 AM on October 19 [2 favorites]


I get lost as hell every time I go to Durham. If I reached this bridge, at least I'd have an orientation point. And now they are taking even that away from me!
posted by thelonius at 10:12 AM on October 19 [2 favorites]


I love the ones in the video who sneak up on the bridge, as if there's any way to check clearance other than hitting it.
posted by Ickster at 10:29 AM on October 19 [5 favorites]


our roads should be nominally safe even for dumbasses
posted by ryanrs at 10:30 AM on October 19 [5 favorites]


The final crash in that video is great.

Yes, it is. I'd perused the area on Google maps just before watching, and when the truck turned, I thought that's a one-way, dumb-ass! Guess he figured it out.
posted by Ickster at 10:33 AM on October 19


The bridge is not taking the news well.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:38 AM on October 19 [5 favorites]


That is one tough bridge.
posted by amanda at 10:43 AM on October 19 [6 favorites]


There are two light posts on either side of the road, about 20 feet in front of the bridge.

Why didn't Durham string a bright yellow cord between them, 11'8" high? Seems like replacing that periodically would be cheaper than cleaning up all the truck debris.

Given that Durham didn't, why didn't anyone else? Maybe civic-minded neighbors keep doing that, and entertainment-minded neighbors keep removing it?
posted by gurple at 10:47 AM on October 19 [3 favorites]


Not sure what a bright yellow cord would do if the driver missed the flashing yellow lights and signs telling them that they're over height and need to turn.
posted by Ickster at 10:52 AM on October 19 [19 favorites]


Well, if it were designed to provide enough resistance that the driver would feel it, but not enough to damage the poles, then it would at least prevent the low-speed crashes.
posted by gurple at 10:53 AM on October 19 [1 favorite]


Why didn't Durham string a bright yellow cord between them, 11'8" high?

There's an analogous barrier by the bridge that you'd similarly think would stop low-speed collisions but lana_nope.gif.

In general, there are approximately ninety bazillion varieties of "That's stupid! Why don't they just..." about the 11'8" bridge, and the answers all boil down to "It's not that simple because reasons" or "They do that already but some truck drivers really *insist* on being dummies."

Guessing that this change probably also requires a lot of changes to the surrounding lengths of track to keep the grade from becoming too extreme, I'm morbidly curious how too-much this is gonna cost.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 11:04 AM on October 19 [19 favorites]


In general, there are approximately ninety bazillion varieties of "That's stupid! Why don't they just..." about [Problem X], and the answers all boil down to "It's not that simple because reasons" or "They do that already but some [people] really *insist* on being dummies."

This is a general law that ought to be taught to everyone before they graduate high school.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 11:14 AM on October 19 [25 favorites]


> Well, if it were designed to provide enough resistance that the driver would feel it, but not enough to damage the poles, then it would at least prevent the low-speed crashes.

Some people believe that herd immunity is safer for them than vaccinations. Some people believe that trickle-down economics and dismantling social safety nets improve their quality of life. Some people don't believe in global warming. And some people believe their trucks will fit under the damn bridge.

All the evidence in the world provided by relevant authorities is not sufficient to disabuse them of what they believe.
posted by ardgedee at 11:20 AM on October 19 [19 favorites]


A very high percentage of these were rental trucks - Ryder, Enterprise, Penske - so not professional drivers.

I did like the hay truck getting its top layer scraped off, and then the second hay truck follows right behind - me too!
posted by JackFlash at 11:26 AM on October 19 [8 favorites]


.
posted by Splunge at 11:33 AM on October 19




DEFEND STORROW DRIVE
posted by overeducated_alligator at 12:24 PM on October 19 [16 favorites]


Came here to say that at least Storrow drive is a guaranteed shitshow if a driver ignores the multiple low hanging signs before the bridge. The signs hang lower than the bridge for extra caution. It still happens regularly though.
posted by Hactar at 12:31 PM on October 19 [1 favorite]


.
posted by KTamas at 12:48 PM on October 19


In the city where I live, we have a train overpass like this. The signs are all there along with chains that hang down from a framework a distance down the street on each side from the overpass.

The first semester of university, my rhetoric teacher told us the story of when he and his wife moved to town, they came down the street after dark in a Ryder truck. They didn't see the signs, but the chains on the roof of the truck got their attention. They didn't know what was up until the truck made contact with the overpass.
posted by Fukiyama at 1:07 PM on October 19 [3 favorites]


11' 8" Bridge Memorial Meetup at Sam's Bottle Shop!
posted by research monkey at 2:03 PM on October 19 [3 favorites]


"I love the ones in the video who sneak up on the bridge, as if there's any way to check clearance other than hitting it."

...and the driver says to his passenger:"I don't see any cops around. Let's go for it!!"
posted by Floydd at 2:21 PM on October 19 [1 favorite]


I am more concerned about the number of people in Durham who apparently don't know how a stop sign works.

A significant portion don't stop and the ones that do are so far into the intersection, they might as well not have bothered.

North Carolina drivers, probably.
posted by madajb at 2:21 PM on October 19 [2 favorites]


> Guessing that this change probably also requires a lot of changes to the surrounding lengths of track to keep the grade from becoming too extreme, I'm morbidly curious how too-much this is gonna cost.

According to this thread on trains.com, a very conservative grade is 2.2%, which would be around 48 foot of forward travel for each foot of elevation. I don't know how high they're raising the overpass, but if it's three and a half feet (to get it over the 15' minimum elevation for a local road underpass, per NC DOT (page 9))* that means the tracks for 175 feet on either side of the bridge have to be regraded**. A quick check of the map*** shows there's 440 feet between the eastern edge of the Gregson overpass and the western edge of the Duke St. crossing grade, which would hypothetically allow for up to nine feet of altitude assuming they felt ambitious.

There are two tracks at the Gregson crossing. I don't know how they're going to elevate the tracks but I'm wondering whether they'll regrade one and then regrade the other, so that they can keep one line in service at all times.

* Federal DOT standard minimum clearance seems to be 14' for non-highway underpasses, but the relevant docs on fhwa.dot.gov are marked "archived" so I don't know if that's changed.
** Plus, probably, additional distance for the transition from level to incline and back.
*** Google Maps will suggest the Gregson bridge if you type 11'8. Apple's Maps app has a clickable highlight icon for the Gregson 11'8" bridge that links to its Wikipedia entry. Apple Maps also has a highlight icon between Pettigrew St. and the tobacco worker's union hall that links to Yelp reviews of the bridge, which are as snarky as you'd expect.
posted by ardgedee at 2:24 PM on October 19 [5 favorites]


Incidentally, after this maybe they can fix the railroad bridge over Chapel Hill Street, which has a whole four inches extra clearance (12') but also narrower lanes, leading to its own awkward incidents because unlike Gregson this is a two-way main artery through the city.
posted by ardgedee at 2:32 PM on October 19 [3 favorites]


How much extra fuel does it cost to lift several million tons three feet in the air?

The arboretum in Seattle has a truck-killer bridge in it. Most rental truck places go to great lengths to quiz you several dozen times as to whether you understand trying to take your truck through the arboretum will involve a great deal of expense on your part.

The rental trucks are kind of understandable, but the pro truckers are just weird. I mean, you have one job. The other ones that make me go hm are the ones where it's not even close, the truck is a good foot or more higher than the bridge.

Then again, do a youtube search for "Swift truck fails" and see where the lowest common denominator lies for pro truckers.
posted by maxwelton at 2:37 PM on October 19 [1 favorite]


I meant to add that a 2.2% grade is STEEP in railroad land, far as I know.
posted by maxwelton at 2:38 PM on October 19 [1 favorite]


> How much extra fuel does it cost to lift several million tons three feet in the air?

Less than you'd think. A locomotive is about 75' long, boxcars about 50' long. Assuming a fairly short arch (let's go with the 175' long ramp I contrived), there will only be about three cars on the incline at a time, after which there's a net zero increase/decrease in energy needed since the cars on the decline side will offset them. The rails through Durham are not main trunks so we don't see the mile-long trains that travel through the midwest, but the Amtrak trains are usually 6 or more cars, freight trans are usually over 20 cars.

> I meant to add that a 2.2% grade is STEEP in railroad land, far as I know.

According to that trains.com thread I linked, a 2.2% grade is a 19th century standard maximum. For most of the modern era, 3.3% to 4% was a standard maximum, and that's relevant to long hill climbs, not humps like this. What might happen is a reduced speed limit on the tracks, but since there's an Amtrak station less than a half-mile away and a whole lot of urban street grades beyond that, I'm gonna guess that speed limit has been in place for a while already.
posted by ardgedee at 2:51 PM on October 19 [1 favorite]


I particularly enjoyed the RVs and fifth wheel trailers that had juuuuust enough clearance...except for the roof-mounted air conditioner.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 3:00 PM on October 19 [4 favorites]


There seems to be enough low clearance crossings for everyone. I have no idea how many of them have webcams though.
posted by ZeusHumms at 3:11 PM on October 19


A quick Google makes me think those air conditioners run about $750.
Ouch.
posted by Bee'sWing at 3:12 PM on October 19 [3 favorites]


I am more concerned about the number of people in Durham who apparently don't know how a stop sign works.

Nah, people in Durham know how a stop sign works. But the police aren't generally pulling people over for gliding through stop signs. Folks blow through red lights all the time too, which is why so many overheight trucks sped up as they were heading toward the bridge.
posted by bananana at 3:12 PM on October 19


Hereabouts people run red lights to make up for their slow starts at the green lights.
posted by ardgedee at 3:52 PM on October 19 [2 favorites]


I have weirdly fond memories of being on summer vacation in Montreal as a child and being sick as a dog with a 104 degree fever (or 40 degree, as the case my be).

I spent a fair amount of that vacation lying in a hotel bed napping and halucinating, which was only made more otherworldly by the fact that our room faced an overpass that kept eating the tops off of trucks. Three box trucks were peeled like tin cans and one had its roof shattered into hundreds of gigantic toothpicks over the course of just a few days. I think we may have been staying at what is now Hotel Espresso, as it sits above an overpass that is still, to this day, doing its thing.

There will always be a soft spot in my heart for the 11'8" bridge, but I find it reassuring to know that its bretheren bridges will uphold its important work around the world.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 4:29 PM on October 19 [8 favorites]


A very high percentage of these were rental trucks - Ryder, Enterprise, Penske

This driver was not Penske material.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:26 PM on October 19


There's one of these low bridges in my hometown of Liverpool/Syracuse, NY....it's fun every time I go back home to visit to see the latest escalation of warnings and signs. Bridge apparently keeps on winning!
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:38 PM on October 19 [1 favorite]


raising the bridge is stupid it will just encourage trucks to become taller
posted by um at 9:24 PM on October 19 [27 favorites]


Are there even any trucks left in America at this point?
posted by Harald74 at 9:43 PM on October 19


We've got a railway bridge here in Muizenberg, Cape Town that regularly scalps trucks. The locals have named her "Bridget" and every time a truck gets stuck (which is really often) people gleefully post photos on Bridget's facebook page. And like clockwork, the comments on the photos are "Why don't they just ..." never mind that there is already a laser system with flashing lights, no, your bright yellow sign / rope stretched across / whatever solution is just not in place because nobody else ever thought of it, right? My favourite is people saying they should "just" install a mechanism so that the whole bridge can open up for trucks, and close for trains. Yeah. Right!
posted by Zumbador at 1:07 AM on October 20 [3 favorites]


This is reminding me of that cholera epidemic which was stopped by removing the pump handle on the pump which was supplying the contaminated water. It's just not reasonable to expect everyone to not do the obviously convenient thing.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 1:10 AM on October 20 [2 favorites]


http://11foot8.com/

11' 8" is 3.56 m... Melbourne's Montague St bridge is 3.0m, or 9' 10"!

https://howmanydayssincemontaguestreetbridgehasbeenhit.com/
posted by nnethercote at 2:43 AM on October 20 [3 favorites]


Were any of the drivers injured after meeting 11'8"? I bet there were a couple of cases of severe whiplash.
posted by james33 at 5:14 AM on October 20 [3 favorites]


There should be a ten minute video of trucks that just scraped by (bonus for that very slight scraping sound as they do)
posted by chavenet at 7:04 AM on October 20 [1 favorite]


I love this bridge. This was maybe the first YouTube channel I ever subscribed to because I didn’t want to miss a single scrape.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:56 AM on October 20 [1 favorite]




This used to happen all the time on Storrow Drive in Boston, than a practical genius whose name I cannot recall dangled signs from chains over the road ahead of the bridges as low as the bridges so a too tall truck would smack into them causing communication without damage.
posted by Pembquist at 9:55 AM on October 20 [1 favorite]


Now it only happens sometimes on Storrow Drive. (Usually, May or September when there's a large number of rental trucks in use)
posted by rmd1023 at 5:34 PM on October 20


(the chain signs are a great warning system.)
posted by rmd1023 at 5:35 PM on October 20


This used to happen all the time on Storrow Drive in Boston.

Used to? Box-truck drivers storrow all year long (it's always Labor Day Weekend on Storrow Drive, and yep, "storrow" is now also a verb). Once, a long time ago, the state installed cow bells on Storrow Drive onramps, but nowadays just hangs "CARS ONLY" signs (the chains are at entrances to the O'Neill Tunnel in downtown Boston).

A new contestant in Boston-area storrowing is the Franklin Line train bridge over East Street in Dedham, where Amazon big-rig drivers have the tops of their trailers torn off by the Franklin Line train bridge as they come off 128 heading towards an Amazon warehouse in town (not to be confused with the Franklin Line bridge over East Street in Westwood, where trucks used to go to die, until the state raised the bridge and the town lowered the road).
posted by adamg at 9:12 PM on October 20


Sydney's water curtain.
posted by ryanrs at 9:27 AM on October 21 [5 favorites]


When I lived in Cambridge and Somerville, reading about moving trucks Storrowing themselves was a fine part of the usual entertainment as I got to chuckle at dumbasses and out of towners who did not know the local lore*. But then I moved to Boston, and Storrow figures -much- more in my life, esp. when visiting friends north of the river. I drive less than ten times a month, and at least every other month, I get stuck on the onramp to Storrow because yet another truck / bus** has hit the chains, and needs Staties to come out*** and tell people to wait while the vehicle backs out of its predicament.

The chain system works as warning, but Storrow's ramps need a bailout system for those who have been warned. Only the crashes make the news. The slowdowns when busses are trapped on the onramp and unable to alter course easily are just absorbed into the ambient traffic shittiness of the city.

* - the fact that Sept 1/Moving Day is also accompanied with an over/under on when the first Storrowing will hit the news is one of many ways the city channels its hate for students being back in town.

** - it was seeing busses making this dumb manuever and worrying about such a crash involving passengers that made Storrowing less funny in my mind.

*** - I am pretty sure the State Police just keep troopers on "bridge duty" to deal with this because their response times to such predicaments are super fast, which demonstrates the frequency of this bs

posted by bl1nk at 5:39 AM on October 23 [1 favorite]


> I am pretty sure the State Police just keep troopers on "bridge duty"

One might say they are men of constant Storrow.

*(I apologize for being unable to think of a gender-neutral way of making that joke.)
posted by ardgedee at 6:08 AM on October 23 [7 favorites]


Here's a video of the work being done.

They're only raising it 8 inches, so I suspect it will still have some entertainment value.
posted by zompist at 5:47 AM on October 29


.

I hope we can build more like it.
posted by sotonohito at 6:33 AM on October 29


> Here's a video of the work being done .

Wow. At around 5:00 in the video you can see how bent the I-beam had gotten from a few years of trucks hitting it.
posted by ardgedee at 7:43 AM on October 29


This Kottke post sent me to a neat little video documentary about the bridge featuring, among others, interviews with the guy who set up the camera to film the crashes and a state engineer who worked on solutions to warn overheight drivers about the issue.
posted by charmedimsure at 10:59 PM on October 29 [2 favorites]


> Gregson St is open again and the canopener is back in business at 12' 4"
posted by ardgedee at 4:20 PM on November 5 [1 favorite]


Sharing 11 foot 8 memories - this was us in the gunmetal CRV on New Year’s Eve!
posted by oceanjesse at 11:43 AM on November 9 [4 favorites]


Curious about that video. On first watch, it appears the bus also gets the red light warning. However, after watching it a couple times and more carefully, the bus approaches, you see the warning message and then yellow light to red, red changing just as the bus glides under (barely). Could the driver have seen the signal change and the bus glide under as an indication that the signal was not true and reliable information? The bus “ignored” it and fit. Obviously that is faulty human logic and yet another example of why computer-driven cars would be better than us but I can see that happening.

Clearly the light for the intersection is red which should supersede all other senses that suggest “go” but then the messaging might add an element of confusion. I’m sure the road engineers have gone around and around on this. I think they should have drawn big googley eyes on the thing since we humans behave differently when we perceive a “watchfulness.” It’s just so amazing that people continued to hit the damn thing.
posted by amanda at 12:34 PM on November 10


> I’m sure the road engineers have gone around and around on this.

A bunch of years ago I talked with a friend in a university urban design program and the topic came around to a particular complex intersection in that town where major accidents occurred several times a week. They said it was a frequent topic of research and that it was basically an example of a particular kind of streets problem for which there are no good solutions so the city has to, frustratingly, try to find the least-bad solution instead (where least-bad usually means optimizing for the fewest lives lost and fewest millions of dollars of vehicle and property damage each year, rather than trying to design an intersection that kills nobody).

On that particular stretch of Gregson, the warnings to trucks start a few blocks before the underpass and escalate with flashing lights and very pointed signs. By the time the driver has reached the bridge they have had several minutes to decide -- while multitasking, sure -- whether their truck is tall enough. But obviously the system isn't perfect and only tries to address the chunk of traffic flowing at the moment that has a truck in it. Since Gregson is a two-lane one-way road for that entire stretch, it could have been possible for two trucks to approach the bridge side-by-side and the driver of the adequately short truck, assuming the warnings are for them opts for a detour while the taller truck hits the bridge.
posted by ardgedee at 6:14 AM on November 11 [1 favorite]


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