Help in sight for Columbia bridge constantly struck by trucks

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COLUMBIA, Tenn. (WKRN) — A railroad bridge in Columbia has been struck for the twelfth time in 2021.

That’s more than twice as many times this year compared to last year, and it’s still June.

The Carters Creek Railroad Bridge is just west of Highway 31 in Columbia. The bridge is 10 feet,10 inches high.

According to Columbia Police, units have responded to the bridge 31 times through June 28th. According to police, officers have responded to the bridge 19 times to assist big rigs that had to be backed up or turned around. Twelve times, high-profile vehicles struck the bridge causing varying degrees of damage to the trucks.

By comparison, in 2020, the bridge was hit six times. Police said units responded 56 times for service.

The bridge is such a problem, it now has its own Facebook page.

Hillary Mounger is a Facebook member and nearby resident who uses Carter’s Creek Pike and travels under the bridge every day.

“I’ve sat there for hours, two hours not able to move. I go under it every day. The Facebook page is humorous,” Mounger said.

According to Mounger, the group affectionately calls the bridge the “can opener” and tracks how many days it’s been since the bridge was last struck.

“It’s just become a joke. There are so many warning signs and it continues to happen day after day after day,” Mounger said.

As of Monday evening, the page’s bridge collision counter is back to zero. That’s because an Enterprise box truck clipped the bridge around 7 p.m. Monday night. It caused minor damage to the truck, but still required a 911 call, and led to a traffic delay and police response.

Mounger admitted there is no excuse for all the collisions. The bridge is surrounded by blinking lights and warning signs. She suggested another idea that might help drivers avoid the low bridge

“Maybe hanging cross bars at the intersections in low clearance areas like drive thrus.”

Mounger said the bridge is at the very least an inconvenience and waste of tax payer dollars.

“When the trucks are stuck, they have nowhere to turn around or back up, they stop traffic, people try and pass them, and it’s in a curve where they cannot see,” Mounger said. “There have been almost head-on collisions trying to pass an 18 wheeler waiting on police assistance, it has happened for 10 years I can think of off the top of my head. It takes away from real emergencies when in actuality they could be on other calls.”

While there is no recent record of a serious injury crash at the bridge, Mounger could see a scenario where an emergency vehicle might have to turn around and waste time to find another way around the bridge.

“Oh it would slow me down 15 to 20 minutes. I would have to turn around and back track.”

Columbia Police helped News 2 with statistics for this story, but declined to comment on the bridge issue.

In the past, Columbia Police officials have told News 2 that this problem will probably continue until GPS apps like WAZE and Google figure out that this is not a good route for high-profile vehicles driving between I-840 and Columbia.

CSX also responded to the bridge issue with some good news that changes may soon be coming.

“At CSX, safety is at the core of everything we do. When we are notified that one of our bridges is impacted by a vehicle incident, engineering personnel take immediate action to assess any potential damage. The Carter’s Creek Bridge has been inspected and determined safe for rail operations. CSX has been working with TDOT on a plan to install new laser detection units and message display boards to mitigate bridge strikes, which is on schedule for installation in the coming weeks. We strongly urge motorists to heed all posted bridge clearance signs and make sure that the vehicle can safely pass before proceeding,” CSX Transportation spokesperson Sheriee Bowman said in a statement.

When pressed for more information, Bowman deferred to TDOT, but did send News 2 a link that shows comparable devices that might be implemented.

TDOT told News 2 over height detection systems are sensors mounted on both sides of the road at an over height limit. A beam of infrared light is transmitted between the sensors. When an over height vehicle is detected, it actuates flashing beacons and other warning devices.

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