Large trucks crashing into bridges have been an ongoing issue throughout Philadelphia suburbs for decades, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Erin McCarthy.
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Some reports include a concrete truck running into a railroad bridge on Flourtown Road that killed two passengers and Norfolk Southern Bridge in Whitemarsh Township being hit numerous times a month.
“That thing had a bull’s-eye on it,” said Rick Stemple, a traffic safety officer with the Whitemarsh Township Police told The Inquirer.
In 2016, Norfolk Southern took action and raised the bridge by nearly two feet, which ended just about all of the traffic accidents and delays there.
“Accidents there ‘happened all the time,’” Jim Smith, 52, of nearby Lafayette Hill, who used to take that route to work told the paper.” But since the bridge project, he said, “It’s been great.”
In Radnor a bridge on King of Prussia Road had been hit by trucks approximately 43 times in the last decade, according to the Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News. The multiple incidents have township officials looking for solutions, which may include a sensor-activated warning system to reduce collisions.
Inquirer readers have said the bridge crash hazards are not just an issue in Radnor however. There are also problematic bridges in Phoenixville, Feasterville, West Chester and everywhere in between, according to a survey on the paper’s website, Philly.com. Trucks are hitting overpasses throughout Philadelphia suburbs, which caused concerns about safety and traffic congestion. Unfortunately, police offers and towns find their hands are tied on the issues, particularly in areas where railroad companies own the hazardous bridges.
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) officials think truck drivers might be blindly following the directions their GPS gives them. Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association (PMTA) president and CEO Kevin Stewart said the organization is working across the state to address the increased reliance on turn-by-turn GPS apps, which are not designed for truck drivers and don’t alert them of low-clearance bridges.
While truck-specific GPS is an option, it costs money, unlike an app like Waze, according to Stewart.
“I can download Waze for nothing,” Stewart said told The Inquirer. “(So) you see more and more smartphones.”
Box trucks and tractor-trailers have hit an abandoned Norfolk Southern bridge near North Main Street and Vanderslice Street in Phoenixville for decades, according to police. Incidents have led to month-long re-routed commutes and backed-up traffic throughout the area according to resident Dave Strunk.
“I can’t definitively say there’s been an increase,” Phoenixville Sgt. Joe Nemic said. “To me, it’s been a steady problem over the years.”
There have 15 accidents involving the trucks getting stuck under the overpass since 2015 alone, and a half dozen requests for officers to help trucks back out after the drivers realized they cannot fit through, according to Nemic.
Nemic suggested years ago to install something that too tall trucks would run into before they hit the bridge, but the idea never gained momentum.
“The ongoing argument is: Is it a municipality problem or is it a Norfolk Southern problem?” Nemic said.
Norfolk Southern has said it is reviewing a bridge-raising proposal from Phoenixville. Meanwhile, Delaware, Bucks, Chester and Montgomery County readers have suggested numerous solutions from raising bridges to installing sensor detection systems in front of overpasses.
“These kinds of systems rely on doing the same things the signs do: warning drivers,” said Manny Anastiasiadis, senior manager for traffic operations at PennDOT. “Drivers need to make smart decisions and pay attention to low-clearance signage.”
“It’s really coming down a lot to these individual drivers,” Stewart said.
“There’s really no excuse,” Stemple added. “The drivers often say, they’re following GPS. [But] if there was a cliff, would you drive off it?’”
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