Local News

Man's videos span year of trucks hitting Durham bridge

Posted March 18, 2009 5:26 p.m. EDT
Updated March 19, 2009 9:49 a.m. EDT

— 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.

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.