A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Taming our anti-truck trestle

Written December 16th, 2014 by Hasso Hering
After the latest time the First Avenue RR bridge took the top off a truck

After the latest time the First Avenue railroad bridge took the top off a truck

There may be a way to thwart Albany’s truck-crunching trestle, but it would cost something.

One way, of course, is to rely on drivers to pay attention. But that has not been 100 percent successful. In the most recent incident on Nov. 25, the railroad bridge on First Avenue bit the top off the Eugene-based delivery truck of a driver from Brookings. It was only the latest in a long series of similar crashes going back decades.

The bridge has a clearance of 11 feet 4 inches. To alert drivers of taller vehicles, there are detour signs and a warning chain, and there also are warnings in some GPS systems, as a reader pointed out after the November accident. So what else could be done?

Well, how about an automated warning system that detects over-height loads and activates a flashing light? The devices flash an alarm when an infrared beam detects a too-tall load coming down the street.

Ron Irish, the city of Albany’s street transportation expert, looked into this possibility. Irish says there are two or three places in Oregon where these systems are in use, including the Highway 99E bridge over the Willamette River at Harrisburg. ODOT installed that one after a tall load damaged the bridge’s superstructure in 2010.

Placing one of these systems on First would be up to the city. ODOT does not regulate them, and as long as it’s not installed on the bridge itself, the railroad’s OK is not required.

How much would it cost? Irish says: “There is not a standard detail or specifications for their design. They are all custom installations, using off the shelf components. A 2010 article about the one in Harrisburg estimated that the construction cost was around $50,000.” The state evidently thought it was worth the expense, but it had an obvious interest in protecting the bridge and preventing big repair costs.

That reasoning would not apply to the trestle, which has proved it can take anything that the roof of a tall truck can dish out. Here the point of a warning sign would be to prevent damage to trucks and possibly injuries to drivers or other motorists. And the city may conclude that it has done enough. If so, we and those who come after us will have the truck-chomping trestle to talk about for a few decades more. (hh)

8 responses to “Taming our anti-truck trestle”

  1. Jim Engel says:

    You can put most any type of warning there and it still probably wouldn’t tame drivers stupidity! Best accident I covered there was the 10 yard full cement truck that split open on a hot day.

    Drivers though aren’t the only offenders. Many years ago on the R/R line along Water Ave a mid-night train was coming thru. Some one had slipped in an over height box car in the string by mistake & it torn down the R/R trestle above! The R/R had workers out there 24/7 for three days fixing it. JE

    • James Carrick says:

      Jim, Was that the one I commented on in the prior article? About 1972-73? If so, that concrete was headed to our construction job…….and it WAS a HOT, August day…..

  2. Rolland Brower says:

    All the warnings and such assume tall rigs are approaching a few blocks ahead while driving on First Ave. When approaching from the cross street a block away from the tracks there is no warning.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      Might want to take another look, Rolland. The overhead chain is just west of Madison, the last cross street before the trestle. Also downstream from Madison, there are low-clearance signs on both sides of the street. (hh)

  3. Ann Meadowbrook says:

    My office is near this trestle and twice I have heard the sickening sound of that trestle eating metal. What about railroad crossing arms, complete with flashing red lights when they lower, triggered by a camera with a sensor that sees too-tall trucks not turning off onto Madison?

  4. Bill Kapaun says:

    How about a large sign that lights up (with siren)

  5. Jim Clausen says:

    You just can’t fix stupid, no matter how much duct tape is used…


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