Hitting the Bridge

Posted by on Dec 23, 2023 in Unmowed Blog | 2 comments

image credit J. Franco

So there’s this bridge, not far from where I live.

And it’s a little old-fashioned bridge, that carries a railroad track over a small county highway. The bridge is 10 feet 11 inches high.

The sad fact is that in today’s world, most trucks are more than 10 feet 11 inches high. And so if a truck that is 10 feet 12 inches or higher attempts to go under the bridge, it will not fit. This is a fact.

Another fact is that the bridge has been hit by trucks more than a hundred times.

The powers that be have put up signs, saying that the bridge is in fact 10 feet 11 inches high. The signs do not prevent the bridge from being struck dozens of times every year, the record being twice in the span of twenty minutes in November 2021.

Last year, the authorities added flashing lights to warn that the bridge is 10 feet 11 inches. A week after these signs lit up, the bridge was struck again. The most recent strike was just the other day, a truck carrying propane tanks that blew up in a dramatic burst of flame, fortunately not killing anyone.

Some drivers apparently see the signs, and attempt to creep cautiously under the span. Other drivers hit the bridge going full bore, hoping perhaps to blast their way through their destiny. Whatever the technique, they all come up against the incontrovertible fact that neither optimism or denial, prayer nor positivity can alter. The bridge is 10 feet 11 inches high.

The problem is not just truck drivers who are overtired, mathematically challenged, or indulging in magical thinking. It takes two, as they say, to tango. This a problem that is completely solvable. If we don’t want trucks bumping into our bridge, we could raise the bridge. We could lower the roadway. We could reroute the highway. We could reroute the train tracks. I’m no engineer, and I have no idea which of these is the correct solution, but surely we could try any number of things. The one thing that won’t work—and the one thing, human nature being what it is, that we will infallibly do—is put up another, bigger, brighter sign warning that the bridge is 10 feet 11 inches.

Trying to solve a problem with a solution that has been proven more than a hundred times to not work. Ignoring the warnings of experts and authorities about a fact. Maybe the bridge’s most important function is to serve, not as part of the roadway, but as a lesson to us all.


  1. One sign says “Overweight when flashing.” I think that’s a camera on the pole. So, I’m guessing that the camera measures the height of the truck- ? That’s even weirder. Maybe an alarm activated by the lights? Until we get the road/bridge altered.

  2. The definition of insanity, as I recall! A really important subject. Thank you for posting this!

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