“I would call this an unlucky coincidence,” said Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PDOT) spokesman Dave Thompson as reported in a November 24 article in Lancaster Online.
Thompson was referring to last week’s collision of a truck hauling a load described as a “long shed” westbound on U.S. Route 30 under the Hill Street bridge in the Mountville Township, located about 15 miles west of Lancaster, Penn. While the clearance of the bridge is officially 14-feet 4-inches above Route 30 and the notification sign indicates 14-feet 0-inches, vehicles exceeding 13-feet 6-inches are not allowed through the underpass. Whether the height of the load being hauled originally exceeded the threshold is unclear; however, based on the citation for failure to properly secure a load, it may be a case in which the shed shifted during transport and resulted in the collision.
The coincidence Thompson notes is a product of a June 3, 2019, collision of another load hauled by truck with the same bridge. The driver of this truck, carrying a lift that apparently raised enough during transport to strike the bridge, was also cited for failure to secure a load. Initially, PDOT inspectors noted the damage from the June incident was cosmetic. But by the time repairs finished and traffic permanently reopened under the bridge, the total repair bill came to $500,000. The repair was officially completed November 14, just six days before the second incident.
Central-Penn Transportation (CPT) noted that truckers are aware that posted bridge clearances do not always reflect actual conditions. Matt Rhodes, president of CPT told Lancaster Online, “A bridge can be marked something when it’s built, and then they’ll pave the road.” The Hill Street bridge was constructed in 1965, and PDOT’s Dave Thompson confirms the posted clearance of 14-feet 0-inches is accurate.
Thompson noted that while GPS is a great tool, all roads are not necessarily “GPS-friendly.” He added that in Pennsylvania, oversized loads normally are steered clear of questionable routes during the permitting process. Likewise, carriers of any load exceeding 14-feet 6-inches in height are required to look to a traffic consultant to verify a route is acceptable for both the truck and its cargo.
The sad part of both incidents is that Route 30 may have been acceptable when both loads departed their origination points, but the drivers failed to ensure their cargo was adequately secured. The result will be another round of repairs for the bridge. PDOT inspectors have yet to reveal the estimated extent, cost or timeline of repairs. The first round created enough congestion to substantially impact traffic patterns in the area. If the extent of damage from the second incident equals or exceeds that in June, travelers could be in for another extended round of traffic headaches.
According to PDOT traffic volume statistics, over 58,000 vehicles travel through Mountville along U.S Route 30 daily, making it the second most heavily-traveled route to and from Lancaster for points west of the city. With over 2,000 vehicles crossing the state-maintained Hill Street bridge, the overpass is one of two in the township crossing above U.S. 30, a route essentially bisecting Mountville east to west.
For information on traffic volume statistics along all Pennsylvania roadways, see https://www.penndot.gov/ProjectAndPrograms/Planning/Maps/Pages/Traffic-Volume.aspx
Since retiring from a career as an outdoor recreation professional from the State of Arkansas, Kris Rutherford has worked as a freelance writer and, with his wife, owns and publishes a small Northeast Texas newspaper, The Roxton Progress. Kris has worked as a ghostwriter and editor and has authored seven books of his own. He became interested in the trucking industry as a child in the 1970s when his family traveled the interstates twice a year between their home in Maine and their native Texas. He has been a classic country music enthusiast since the age of nine when he developed a special interest in trucking songs.