Drivers Keep Hitting Unfortunate Tonawanda Landmark
When it was constructed in 1918, the engineers behind the Young Street CSX bridge probably never considered their work would one day be a landmark.
But after the third collision in six days -- bringing the total recorded number of truck vs. bridge accidents to 64 since 2001 -- the Tonawanda bridge has an unfortunate reputation.
"It's a tough one to explain," said Tonawanda Police Capt. Fred Foels to the Buffalo News.
The unfortunate landmark was the site of three truck/bridge collisions in 2020, but three more have occured in just the last six days -- the latest involving a trailer carrying pre-prepared Indian food. The second accident involved an empty trailer.
"The first [accident of 2021] happened around 5:30 p.m. Jan. 20 when Brian D. Toomer, a 59-year-old Ohio man, hit the Young Street bridge with his tractor-trailer loaded with pallets of empty Crown Royal bottles that were on their way to a distillery. The crash split the trailer in half, Foels said."
Captain Foels started keeping detailed records of the truck/bridge crashes in 2000. The most recent brings the total count to 64 incidences.
According to his records, the crashes have not often involved injuries, despite obliterating the tractor-trailers. As well, the bridge shows few dents.
The road that leads to the bridge is closed to truck traffic. Foels said "he believes the city has done everything it realistically can do to prevent the crashes."
There are numerous warning signs leading up to the bridge warning of its height of 11 feet, 6 inches. And the commercial GPS used by most truck drivers typically alerts them to low bridges and other issues.
The problem might have to do with the combination of inexperienced commercial drivers, and the use of standard GPS (like the kind on your smartphone) doesn't have the same height-clearance alerts.
"The truck drivers often are trying to take a shortcut from the 290 up to North Tonawanda or Niagara Falls, Foels said, or they are trying to avoid the tolls at the South Grand Island Bridge. As in the case of the three most recent drivers, they're nearly all from out of town, he said."
A representative for CSX stated that the bridge is inspected after every incident to ensure structural safety.