Officials Say Illinois Bridge Fiasco Was Disaster Waiting to Happenby Jana Ritter - Published: 3/25/2015
A new railroad bridge in Bensenville Illinois was reopened this week and then forced to shutdown within the same day after at least 15 trucks crashed into the low lying structure. Although many truck detour signs had been posted warning drivers of the new the bridge height, they apparently went unnoticed by the many semi-truck drivers that hit it. While some people are taking the all too familiar stance of “blame the truck drivers”, a few Bensenville officials admit they had been worried “it was a fiasco waiting to happen.”
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Until last weekend, the bridge section running over Irving Park Road, (which is a main artery for transporting freight to and from O'Hare International Airport), had been resting on temporary piers and trucks could pass underneath. Then on the weekend, the bridge was placed on its permanent piers and the new 12-foot-6-inch clearance was no longer high enough for semi-trailers to clear it. Although the Illinois Department of Transportation claims to have posted plenty of detour signs giving truck drivers fair warning, city administrators had sat down with IDOT last week expressing their concerns.
"None of us felt real confident the detour signs would be obeyed,” Bensenville Assistant Village Manager DaDi Santo said.
However, IDOT spokesperson Carson Quinn maintained that they did everything to prevent such a disaster from happening and that truck drivers simply ignored the signs. "IDOT had hundreds of signs in the area warning trucks and directing them accordingly, so the number of signs was not an issue. These signs were installed for some time," Quinn said. Within the first few hours of the bridge re-opening, three semi-trailers crashed right into the overhanging structure and a total of 15 collisions occurred on the busy street within the first day, with most of them involving trucks over 13 feet high. In one case, a truck was stuck under the bridge as a freight train approached. Fortunately, the train was going slow enough that it was able to divert in time.
Village President Frank Soto said that the way the road is engineered led to a perfect storm and that the traffic leaving O'Hare turns onto Irving Park from Route 45. "Once they turn off route 45 -- they're stuck. The way it's configured, there's no turnaround," Soto said. "It wasn't a question of if, it was a question of when. We just didn't think it would happen the first day," he added.
The best news is that no fatalities or serious injuries occurred in any of the collisions, but there is the serious inconvenience of Irving Park Road being closed for the next four months while reconstruction is completed. Officials say that trucks will again be able to pass under the bridge once it re-opens.
Are signs enough to warn truck drivers already enroute to bridges or low clearance structures?