This was the scene on the 1880 iron truss bridge in Paoli, Indiana, on Christmas Day.
Despite the signs on both sides of this bridge declaring no trucks, a 13′ 3″ height limit, and a 6-ton weight limit, this too-tall semi loaded well beyond 6 tons with bottled water drove onto it anyway. Its trailer hit the first overhead beam (a.k.a. the portal strut) as the truck’s weight began to bear down on the deck. This mangled mess followed directly.
According to a news report from Louisville TV station WDRB, workers had to cut this bridge apart to extract the semi. Locals hope to see the bridge restored. But given the extent of damage, I think they should plan to find a new bridge built here. I hope I’m wrong.
This just makes me sick.
Here’s what this bridge looked like until Christmas Day.
My friend Dawn and I visited it, and all of Paoli’s delightful square, in 2012 on a tour of the Dixie Highway in southern Indiana.
What a delightful find it was! It looked to have been restored, but long enough in the past that rust spots were starting to peek through the paint.
This bridge had wonderful details, including the ornate portal bracing and the curlicues on this builder’s plate.
And now, this. It’s a damn shame.
I find old truss bridges like this one on many of my road trips. They fit broadly into two categories: those still serving very light traffic on a nearly forgotten back road, and those adding to an old town’s charming ambiance.
I follow the old-bridge news on bridgehunter.com, where I see a couple stories a year of heavy trucks taking out old bridges. The driver found themselves approaching the old bridge, often because their GPS sent them that way. They didn’t see or chose to ignore the weight-limit signs. They either didn’t realize their truck would be too heavy, or worried that it might be but chose to keep going and hope for the best. I have but one word for all of this: idiotic.
I wish every last old truss bridge could be closed except to pedestrians so this can’t happen again.