More or less on a regular basis, tall vehicles have hit the trestle on First Avenue in Albany since at least the 1960s. Despite efforts to prevent them, the crashes continue.
On May 6 a recreational vehicle had its rooftop air conditioner torn off and the roof itself sliced open. It was the latest in a long string of similar mishaps.
I don’t think the police or anyone else is keeping a list, so it’s impossible to know exactly how often this has happened.
But I searched for reports in the Democrat-Herald and found stories about the “truck-eating trestle” going back through the years, in 2016, 2015, 2012, 1982, 1971, 1970, and 1969, sometimes several in the same year.
It’s a cumbersome chore, looking through the digital archive of newspapers.com, and I quit after reading crash reports at the First Avenue trestle in June 1969 and again a month later.
In recent years the clearance under the railroad bridge has been 11 feet 4 inches. In 1971, it was reported as 10 feet 4 inches.
In 1977, the Southern Pacific (which owned the rail line then) raised the trestles across First and Water avenues to accommodate higher loads in the railcars of the Burlington Northern, which was moving its line on Water Avenue. The clearance went up 1 foot on Water but only 2 inches on First.
Some years later, if memory serves, the City of Albany lowered the First Avenue pavement. In 2016, the city upgraded the signs on First, including truck detour signs. And the blinking warning lights on the bridge itself were improved with much brighter LEDs.
The warnings are there, but evidently not all drivers see them. Or if they do, they may not know the height of their rigs.
Mitch Langjahr owns MacDonald Hardware and Supply, next to the trestle on First. He saw me taking photos of the scene on Sunday, and we talked.
Langjahr hasn’t kept a list either, but by his estimate a vehicle hits the trestle once a month or so on average. On Saturday he saw the owners of that RV pick up debris on the street. Some of the roof insulation of their rig was still stuck on the trestle’s leading edge.
Over the years, a few of the crashes have resulted in not just property damage. Now and then someone in the cab got hurt.
The only permanent solution, you would think, is to lower the roadway of First Avenue some more. This would create a pronounced dip and would certainly cost a lot of money.
The city has a transportation system plan that lays out scores of street improvements all over town. The plan dates from 2010 and was intended to look ahead to 2030.
If reread the whole plan and checked all the maps, but I didn’t see a project that would make it impossible for vehicles to hit the trestle on First. (hh)