City commission mulls preventing bridge accidents

Life EMS transports the driver of a cargo truck to St. Mary's Regional Medical Center after the vehicle's cargo area collided with the bottom of the railroad bridge on Maine Street Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014. Enid Police Officers and Enid Fire Department responded to the scene.

Enid’s Maine Street Bridge is infamous for getting hit again and again.

It’s commonly is referred to as the “can opener” for its unceremonious beheading of vehicles too tall to clear the structure.

It has its own website, bridgeshark.com, and it’s been featured on the aggregation website Reddit (“My hometown bridge claimed another one”). It even has its own Facebook page.

After the abused bridge took double-digit hits in 2012, the city painted monster teeth to prevent more close encounters of the bridge kind.

Since then, Project Engineer Murali Katta-Muddanna said the Enid Police Department reported four accidents in 2016 and seven accidents in 2017 involving the bridge.

Four blocks north sits a less infamous railroad bridge at Elm Street, which was knocked out of alignment after a collision in 2015.

In that case, a Texas driver was charged with a felony crime after that bridge became unusable until it could be replaced. The common route for motorists was closed for several weeks.

Union Pacific Railroad police located the Peterbuilt boom-crane truck in Fort Worth, Texas. The driver reportedly told railroad police he was distracted when he hit the bridge because he was using his GPS at the time. Poor visibility, bad placement of advanced warning signs, the time of day and the color of the bridge were claimed to be contributing factors to the accident. However, the case was later dismissed by the state.

In the Elm Street incident, a truck hit the railroad structure hard enough to force an expensive — but permanent — fix.

Meanwhile, preventing future bridge accidents at the battered Maine Street Bridge was the topic du jour during an Enid City Commission discussion earlier this month. It’s frustrating that the bridge —even with big shark’s teeth, warning signs and lights — was struck by vehicles seven times in 2017.

While it’s the railroad’s bridge, the city owns the street. Lowering the road isn’t feasible due to expense and existing pipes already underneath the thoroughfare.

The road is technically not a truck route. City officials are hoping to divert truck traffic.

Drivers should be responsible enough to know height and length of their truck and trailer. If GPS maps are routing them that way, then those maps need to change.

We hope more effective signs or lights are placed near the bridge on Maine as city officials work to stop trucks from hitting the structure. Most people who hit the bridge are going west. 

Katta-Muddanna suggested printing signs on the street, placing more street signs, radar detection and video detection. 

Some have recommended a solar-powered light warning “no trucks.” Bright lights alerting an over-height vehicle approaching might work.

Two years ago, we suggested a hanging, low-clearance sign on chains in advance of the bridge with the warning, “If you hit this sign, you will hit that bridge.” Why not hang those signs on both sides of the bridge?

We’re all for reasonably priced lights or signs that garner even more attention.

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