History, Preservation, Road Trips

Pulled back from the brink: 1880 Paoli bridge

This was the scene in Paoli, the seat of justice in Orange County, Indiana, on Christmas Day in 2015.

Photo credit: French Lick Fire Dept.

I thought this beautiful bridge, built in 1880, was a goner. But the people of Paoli wouldn’t have it — they saw to it that the bridge was rescued. The trucking company (or probably its insurance company) paid the entire $700,000 bill. Margaret and I drove through Paoli in July and stopped to photograph it. This photo was taken from about the same place as the photo above.

Gospel Street Bridge, Paoli, IN

Height-limit bars were installed several feet before the bridge on both ends. Now a too-large vehicle will hit these bars rather than the bridge. It’s a nice touch that they are in a similar style as the bridge.

Gospel Street Bridge, Paoli, IN

Nikon Df, 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-G Nikkor

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22 thoughts on “Pulled back from the brink: 1880 Paoli bridge

  1. That would have been a real eye opener of a property damage claim. There must have been solid evidence that the pre-damage value of the bridge was well over $700k, or else there would have been more of a fight with the insurer.

  2. Andy Umbo says:

    Glad they put in the height bars as a prelim to hitting the bridge. My Dad, spending a lifetime in the insurance biz, saw this happening all the time. He was not a defender of the average intelligence of truck drivers!

    • tbm3fan says:

      The average intelligence of your non-truck driver is not always that much better. Yesterday, could be any day, I took a different exit to reach home since the normal one was just finishing road work. This exit stops at a major 3 lane road each direction. In California you can make a right turn on a red light unless posted and this right turn is posted…NO… by three large signs. Two directly across from you and one next to you. So what did the pickup do? Sounds like why did the chicken cross the road?

      • Andy Umbo says:

        TBM3FAN….yep, no one pays attention. I actually live across the street from a home for the blind, hence ALL the surrounding corners have “no turn on red” postings, as you may ‘clock’ a blind person who’s listening for the traffic in front of them, or to the side of them. Every single red light, all day long, someone turns right on red. The cops could sit out here all day long and hand out tickets, and they would go on and still do it in front of the cops anyway. “I didn’t see the sign!”

        • tbm3fan says:

          Their problems isn’t that they can’t see with their eyes, since as an eye doctor I could help them, their problem is in their head which no one can help.

  3. The highways in California have posted height limits on the overpasses and local bridges, but they are not visible until you are right up on them. I don’t know if there are signals or maps showing height limitations, but I do remember one truck rammed into one in my town. The road above was damaged, multiple cars crashed into the back of the truck, and the truck itself was a bit of a mess. Luckily no one died, and the overpass was fixed fairly quickly. Same with the freeway. I hope that this bridge won’t suffer that fate again!

    • We’re generally better about that in Indiana. When you turn down a road with a weight-limit or height-limit bridge ahead, there’s usually a sign right as you turn on. Still doesn’t prevent bridges from being destroyed, but it probably cuts down on it.

  4. Michael says:

    The limit bars look pretty high for wanting to enforce “no trucks”. I assumed it was the grossly exceeded weight limit (6T) that did it in rather than hitting the top.

    • That could just be the perspective of my photograph. On the ground, to me the limit bars looked to be about as tall as the bridge’s top members. I think I remember that the weight of the truck was a problem indeed, but it wasn’t until the trailer hit the top members that the bridge buckled.

  5. Andy Umbo says:

    I believe, that if you consider yourself a professional trucker, there is an app called SmartTruckRoute that shows all bridge and underpass heights, and you may even be able to filter your route based on those. I also believe someone told me a while back, that there are trucker specific maps that also show all bridge and underpass heights.

  6. Jane Safford Herr says:

    I about cried when I saw pictures of that truck on the bridge. I cheered when I saw it rehabbed, better than ever!!!!!

    • It was infuriating when this happened. I thought for sure this bridge was done for. It’s amazing what they can do to restore a badly damaged bridge!

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