Local News

Laser system created to cut down bridge, truck collisions in Durham

Posted April 26, 2016 6:33 p.m. EDT
Updated April 27, 2016 8:48 a.m. EDT

— The railroad bridge over Gregson Street near Brightleaf Square has become Durham’s best-known bridge, with a history of taking the roofs off passing trucks.

The Department of Transportation said it hopes those days are coming to an end.

Tall trucks collide with the bridge so often that Jurgen Henn, who works at Brighleaf Square, set up cameras and started a website with videos of the collisions.

“It has a reputation for enforcing the laws of physics mercilessly,” Henn said.

City and state officials have implemented signs and an impact bar, but now the DOT has a new approach.

Jon Sandor and other DOT workers have mounted lasers on the bridge, which will trigger a signal down the street.

DOT officials said the systems cost about $130,000 apiece.

“This will be a traffic signal that will stop traffic and process what's happening, and see the new sign lighting up indicating they need to turn,” he said.

Sandor said raising the railroad and lowering the street would be costly. Nobody has been hurt due to the low hanging bridge, which Sandor said makes the project a lower funding priority.

“We’re pretty confident,” he said. “Maybe not all of them, but most of them should be eliminated with this.”

Henn said he’s recorded more than 100 crashes on camera but said he believes the DOT’s new system will make it safer.

“I think it’ll spare a few trucks from getting decapitated,” he said. “I’m hopeful.”

The DOT has installed a similar system at the Roxboro and Pettigrew railroad crossing.