Columbia police warn truckers after repeated collisions with low railroad bridge

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COLUMBIA, Tenn. (WKRN) — After six trucks have hit the same railroad bridge over Carters Creek Pike, Columbia police officers are putting out a warning to all motorists driving high profile vehicles: find another shortcut.

This warning comes after the sixth truck hit the railroad bridge near Highway 31 and Carter’s Creek Pike this past Tuesday morning. Even though there are multiple warning signs from each direction, some equipped with blinking lights, a truck driver still drove her big rig under the 10′ 10″ bridge.

The top of the trailer was crushed, and the truck was stuck in the opening for hours.

Police say multiple officers were deployed to the scene to shut down traffic for hours until the trailer could be off loaded onto another rig, and then the trailer had to be towed away from the scene.

Columbia Police tell News 2 that the driver was cited for failure to obey traffic signs.

According to CPD, in 2020, there were 56 calls for service at the same bridge involving vehicles that were too tall. Five of those trucks collided with the bridge.

The situation is already worse in 2021. According to CPD, so far this year, there have been 21 calls for service to the bridge for vehicles that are too tall. Six trucks have already struck the railroad bridge, eclipsing last year’s total and it is only mid-April.

John Schmohe is a county worker at the convenience center a short distance from the bridge on Carters Creek Pike.

He has worked at the facility for almost three years, and he tells News 2 that trucks hitting the bridge or the road being closed to tow a big rig out is becoming a weekly occurrence.

“We just heard this big bang,” the former truck driver of 35 years tells News 2. “We looked over there, and there’s this truck halfway under the bridge. The driver who hit it Tuesday had her license less than a year. She said [she] never seen the signs.”

The county worker smiles, knowing it would be hard not to see the warning signs. There are at least three big yellow warning signs before you get to the bridge coming from each direction, and there are flashing yellow lights as well to get a driver’s attention that the bridge is only 10 feet 10 inches tall.

News 2 asked Columbia Police why there is an increase in bridge incidents. Investigators say it appears truckers coming to Columbia from I-840 on the north end are being led onto Carters Creek Pike via GPS.

“And they are looking at GPS on their phones and it doesn’t tell them about the low clearance bridge,” said Schmohe.

When asked what his advice to his fellow truck drivers is, the former trucker of 35 years says, “If you don’t know your height, measure.”

News 2 reached out to the railroad for input. So far, CSX officials have not responded.

Multiple sources who have talked to the railroad in years past say the issue is complicated and expensive and would require not only the bridge to be raised, but also the railroad tracks which would have to be raised gradually a great distance from where the train would eventually cross Carters Creek Pike.

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