The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

February 26, 2013

Overhaul underpass

Action needed to keep trucks from harm’s way

The Tribune-Democrat

— An out-of-town truck driver made local news reports last week when the roof of his rig’s trailer slammed into the Laurel Avenue overpass in Johnstown’s West End.

Police officers and West End residents were probably thinking, “What’s the big deal?”

After all, as city police Sgt. Pat Goggin estimated, one truck a month strikes the overpass.

Does anybody else think some changes are in order?

Here’s what happened, as reported by our Dave Sutor:

The operator was transporting zinc ingots to nearby Johnstown Wire Technologies when his trailer failed to clear the bridge.

“When he saw the sign, it was too late,” Goggin said. As the driver backed his rig from underneath the bridge, the trailer split open.

The sign to which the sergeant referred indicates a clearance of 11 feet, 8 inches.

We’re not freeing the driver from responsibility for the accident. But railroad officials, city leaders and highway traffic engineers must come together and take corrective action.

Traffic signage is weak. Advance warnings are needed and signs on the bridge itself are small.

Things to consider: Flashing warning lights, limiting usage to local traffic only, even digging the roadway deeper and creating more clearance.

And by the way, considering recent paving under the bridge, is the clearance still 11 feet, 8 inches – all the way through?

Any changes will be costly. What is just as obvious, though, is that someone is going to get injured, or worse, if something isn’t done.

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