Local News

Man's videos span year of trucks hitting Durham bridge

Posted March 18, 2009
Updated March 19, 2009

— Trucks and a railroad bridge are proving to be a bad combination at one Durham intersection.

Jurgen Henn says box trucks and other oversized vehicles routinely slam into the bottom of the bridge at Peabody and Gregson streets, west of downtown Durham.

Gregson Street bridge in Durham Truckers ignore warnings, hit bridge

Henn, who works in the nearby Brightleaf Square office and retail complex, said he heard so many crunching and metal-grinding crashes that he decided a year ago to set up a video camera to record them. Since then, his camera has captured eight on tape, and he knows of two others he's missed.

"That's almost a crash a month," he said.

A video compilation of the crashes was posted on YouTube.com, where it has racked up more than 90,000 views in the past week.

"It's always sort of a mixture of, like, 'Whoa, look at this!' and 'Oh my God, what could have happened?'" he said.

Durham police statistics show seven wrecks have occurred in the past year at the Gregson Street bridge. Four more have occurred at a similar bridge at Ninth and Main streets, and five have occurred at a bridge at Pettigrew and Roxboro streets, police said.

The city installed signs indicating the 11-foot, 8-inch clearance under the bridge and even set up a sensor system that triggers a blinking light to warn oversized trucks.

Norfolk Southern Corp., which owns the bridge and the rail line, erected a metal beam in front on the bridge to reduce the number of direct hits on the underside of the structure. Inspectors check the bridge whenever a truck hits it, officials said.

The state Department of Transportation is responsible for maintaining Gregson Street, and engineers say there is nothing left to do to prevent future collisions.

"There's an issue with who is responsible," Henn said. "Who's problem is it? It's tricky."

He said he worries about the danger, not just for drivers, but also for people walking nearby.

"There is flying debris. There (are) big pieces of really sharp aluminum that (are) flying through the air," he said, noting that he has a collection of pieces of wreckage.


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  • Bendal1 Mar 19, 2009

    Deep Thought,

    Actually, the bridge on Alston Avenue carries Pettigrew Street, not Gann. It only has an 11' 7" clearance too so trucks get stuck under it as well. The railroad bridges next to it have more clearance, but their piers are right next to the edge of the road, creating another problem.

  • curiousgeorgia Mar 19, 2009

    Absolutely right, areadriver, I saw that, too. I have a high regard for real truck drivers and the skills you guys have. On occasion I have seen big rigs manoeuvered into the tightest spaces imaginable (Harris Teeter at Cameron Village for one) and I am in awe of the way they do it with no damage to anyone. One I watched I had to get out of my sister's car and go over and praise him. (He was stunned, I must admit.)

  • White Eagle Mar 19, 2009

    I'm sorry, but you can't fix dumb!

  • Bendal1 Mar 19, 2009

    Raising a railroad bridge is VERY difficult. Railroad track grades are very flat and raising one requires approval from the railroads, and can be very expensive. Lowering the road causes problems as well; the road has to be closed, digging down too far exposes the bridge pier foundations, water will pond in the low point unless drained off somewhere (sometimes that's a long way away), and utilities often get involved.

    The clearance is obviously and clearly marked and any commercial truck should recognize they aren't going to make it under the bridge. If a truck hits the bridge it's the company's fault and they can be billed for any damage their truck does to the structure. And no, if it's a state road then closing it to trucks is not an option. Not only is that illegal but Durham would squeal bloody murder about it too.

  • Deep Thought Mar 19, 2009

    There are 3 bridges in Durham that cause the same problem. The one on Gregson in the videos, S Alston Ave and Gann St and the one on Erwin/9th St at Main Street.

    Anyone that scrapes their truck on a low bridge just hasn't been paying attention to either the height of their truck or of the bridge.

  • rc4nc Mar 19, 2009

    I only know of two low bridges and they're both railroad bridges. Seems the state could mandate the railroads correct any problems associated with the railroad bridges. Yes, I consider the bridge being too low a problem. The problem isn't that trucks are using the road.

  • kal Mar 19, 2009

    If the clearance is accuatly stated-trucing companies need to make sure their drivers know the trucks clearance and if they hit a bridge it should be a their own expense

  • that was easy Mar 18, 2009

    I just saw this on TruTVs "Most Shocking Videos" tonight. They had the owner of the trucking company of one of the trucks that ran into the bridge...pretty neat [and unfortunate] story!

  • Builder Mar 18, 2009

    uhmm, all the trucks need to do is read the sign!

  • commandokidd Mar 18, 2009

    how about redoing the bridge and lowering the road, oh wait, DOT has to do it? mm, forget it.