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Man's website shows trucks hitting Durham bridge

Posted July 5, 2011

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— A Durham man set up a camera and a website to show the dangers of a railroad trestle into which tall trucks regularly slam.

At least 10 times in the past year, trucks have slammed into the 11-foot, 8-inch-high railroad bridge at Gregson and Peabody streets, west of downtown Durham.

The sound is "almost earth-shattering. People jump out of their chairs when it happens," said Jurgen Henn, who works in the nearby Brightleaf Square office and retail complex.

Henn set up a camera in his office in 2008 to see if he could record an accident. It didn't take long.

"After a few weeks, the first truck crashed, and the footage was spectacular," Henn said.

Three years later, his videos are a YouTube hit, racking up hundreds of thousands of views. He started a website, 11foot8.com, that has video of the wrecks, gives information about the railroad bridge and even sells T-shirts.

Henn collects mangled pieces from trucks and gets the drivers to sign them.

"It's just a hobby to have some fun," he said.

Gregson Street bridge in Durham Trucks repeatedly hit Durham bridge

While it's fun for him, Henn hopes that the videos bring the danger to drivers' attention.

State Department of Transportation engineers said just about anything that can make the bridge safe has been done.

Signs indicate the bridge's clearance, and a sensor system triggers a blinking light to warn oversized trucks approaching the bridge. Norfolk Southern Corp. erected a metal beam in front on the bridge to reduce the number of direct hits. Inspectors check the bridge whenever a truck hits it.

Another incentive to pay attention: Most rental-truck insurance policies don't cover overhead damage.

Henn said it's up to drivers to be safe.

"Slow down. Read the signs, and act upon the information on the signs," he urged.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Dogs_Rules Jul 6, 2011

    Signs and flashing lights? You just can't fix stupid!

  • dcatz Jul 6, 2011

    There are laws governing the heights of bridges. But this particular railroad bridge is 100+ years old and was built well before such laws existed.

    Raising a railroad bridge is not easy. You have to redo miles of track so that the grading is even.

  • haggis basher Jul 6, 2011

    "a nanny can't follow everyone around and keep them from bumping their head "RB" some bridges are lower than others, it's up to YOU to watch where you are going, no the state."

    But the City and State suffer when traffic get tied up on the roads and rails when someone does not be careful. Road needs to be lowered or rail raised

  • caroexc Jul 6, 2011

    they simply need to lower the asphalt which has been raised by a series of repavings. its obvious in the video ~ as you look at the height of the pavement at the storm drains

  • aniorange Jul 6, 2011

    I have seen the videos on youtube and added his channel quite some time back. I have driven under that bridge for 18 years now but never a truck and I had not thought much of it. I do have to say in response to the person that says truck rental companies do not warn renters, I have rented many moving trucks, often across state lines. I have always rented from budget and they always always make a point to warn me about the height and to watch signs. They have told me how tall my truck was and even showed me where it said so on the truck. It is always explained to me that damage to the roof is not covered under any insurance they offer. People need to pay attention or pay the price. As for making all bridges a minimum height, there may be a law about that now, especially on the interstate but just how old is that bridge?

  • whocares Jul 6, 2011

    How about the railroad bridge at 9th and Main Streets in Durham. There is a sign, just like the other one, stating how tall the bridge is but I guess some truck drivers think that the sign pertains to everyone else besides them.

  • thefensk Jul 6, 2011

    Just to clarify, it is not always rental trucks but yes it often is. I have also see trucks just scoot under the bridge unscathed even though they triggered the warning light, so it is set just a bit low. From the collisions I've personally witnessed from the area in front of the Brightleaf Square courtyard, I'd say most of the time speed is a factor. The rest of the time I think they just aren't paying attention. Or perhaps it happens for both reasons.
    The sensor is located far enough back to give notice if one is driving the speed limit but trucks coming down Gregson who make the light at West Main are rarely driving that slowly which is why I recommend a second sensor at the light.

  • Iworkforaliving Jul 6, 2011

    a nanny can't follow everyone around and keep them from bumping their head "RB" some bridges are lower than others, it's up to YOU to watch where you are going, no the state.

  • thefensk Jul 6, 2011

    When I started working in an office in Brightleaf Square in 1991, I started a collection of what I called Bridge Art ... and displayed my best pieces in my office. I parked in the lot on the other side of the bridge and the street and sidewalk would often be littered with chunks of truck. The best would be curls that peeled off the top of trucks, some as long as 8 inches. I alwasy thought this bridge would benefit from a second warning sensor and light right next to West Main Street ... and they should lower the speed limit on that section of Gregson to 20 MPH and maybe put in speed bumps.
    Note: I never walked under that bridge to my car without glancing back to see if a truck was coming. Haven't worked there in over ten years ... sort of miss my bridge art. Probably not the same quality since they installed the barrier. Saw a crane hit it once and that actually cracked the concrete on the bridge.

  • carroln Jul 6, 2011

    It s the drivers fault if there is a low clearence warning sign.. An ex truck driver i have seen alot of these in my trips around the united states , and yes it is easy to miss if you are in heavy traffic with all the non-drivers cutting you off and such.