South Dakota Bridge Takes 29 Hits Without Damage

March 25, 2015

A low-clearance railroad bridge in Pierre, S.D., continues to win battles with semitrailers that seem drawn to it like a magnet.

The latest truck to crash into the problematic bridge over South Pierre Street didn’t hurt the structure, but an excavator the semi was hauling suffered about $8,000 in damage in the Monday afternoon incident, Police Capt. Elton Blemaster told the Capital Journal. The driver was cited for a route violation and for not providing proof of insurance.

The bridge has a clearance of 11 feet, 3 inches – compared with a standard interstate overpass at 16 feet, 6 inches – and is a regular crash site. Between January 2013 and September 2014, 18 semitrailers hit it, along with other vehicles including tall recreational vehicles.

“It’s built very strong, for railroad traffic. Even with all the hits, apparently its structural integrity has not been compromised,” said retired state Transportation Department chief engineer Larry Weiss.

The problem does not have a simple solution – it’s not feasible to raise a railroad bridge, and Weiss said there are too many underground utilities to lower the road.

“These truck drivers need to understand what the height of their truck load is,” Weiss said. “If they did and they comprehend the signs, it’s pretty obvious.”

The bridge’s clearance height is marked. One city official has suggested adding a sign saying, “Bridge 29, Trucks 0,” Weiss said.

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