Albany's truck-eating overpass did it again this afternoon, illustrating yet another shortcoming of relying for driving directions on GPS.
A driver unfamiliar with Albany was delivering bags of packaging material -- those infernal plastic peanuts -- and had a couple of addresses to go when his GPS told him to take First Avenue. What the GPS system did not know or did not tell him was that this was not the best route in this particular case, considering that his truck was about 13 feet tall and the clearance under the Lafayette Street railroad trestle is 11 feet 4 inches.
The driver, a young man who preferred not to give me his name because he didn't want to embarrass his employer, told me he's from Brookings and was driving for a company out of Eugene. I said I hoped he wasn't hurt. No, he said, just pissed.
The trestle has been chomping tall trucks for seemingly forever. At one time the city lowered the deck of First Avenue to make collisions less likely. A detour was established for trucks. Overhead chains were dangled across the street with the hope that their jangling across the roof of tall trucks could alert drivers to an imminent crash. And yet, now and then, the occasional truck still gets ripped open.
The railroad tracks cannot be raised. Maybe the street underneath could be lowered some more, even though it already has a substantial dip. Maybe nothing more can be done, except this: Urge GPS systems available to the public to call attention to this particular trap on an Albany street.
Slavishly following GPS directions has caused serious problems elsewhere, especially in cases when it led people to get stranded in the mountains in the snow. When driving in the mountains as well as anywhere else, including inner cities, drivers must be reminded to be guided by their own senses, and their common sense, more than by some preprogrammed machine. (hh)