Another bridge hit, another freeway closed

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Manage episode 302492572 series 2920850
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Last week, after inspectors discovered severe damage to a bridge that carries rail cars over the US-23 freeway near Milan, Michigan, engineers made the difficult decision to close the road and pursue emergency repairs. The damage came to light upon a more in-depth inspection of the bridge that revealed severe structural damage from a high-load hit involving a truck traveling underneath in late August.

As Pew Trust research underscored in 2019, “so-called bridge strikes occur all over the country when trucks or their loads are too tall to pass under highway bridges and overpasses. They damage valuable infrastructure, create epic traffic jams and can be hazardous for other drivers who may be pelted with fallen debris or forced to swerve into another car.”

Matt Chynoweth, chief bridge engineer for the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), joins the podcast to explain the sequence of events and why the busy freeway needed to be closed. He also talks about the bridge engineers’ efforts to move quickly on emergency repairs, acknowledging the inconvenience to commuters who rely on the freeway every day, as well as freight haulers traveling farther north or south on the freeway.

The bridge is owned by the railroad and is important to the movement of freight. It is more than 80 years old, pre-dating the conversion of the original two-lane US-23 into a freeway. Chynoweth explains why the jurisdiction for railroad bridges is different than vehicle bridges that carry local roads over or under state-owned highways.

As of the podcast recording on Thursday, Sept. 16, MDOT officials were waiting to open bids and award a contract for the emergency repairs necessary to make the bridge safe for vehicles to pass underneath.

Chynoweth also talks about the importance of truck drivers planning their routes and obtaining permits for oversize loads. In Michigan, a permit is required for objects and/or vehicles at 13 feet, 6 inches or higher.
Michigan Bridge Height Poster

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