The top of a tractor-trailer resembled the peeled-off lid of an aluminum can after it skimmed the bottom of a bridge on Glenridge Road on Thursday morning.
One lane of the road was immediately closed to traffic.
Detective William Marchewka of the Glenville Police Department said 41-year-old Alex Thompson, who was driving from Lawrenceville, Georgia, struck the train overpass at the intersection of Glenridge and Hetcheltown roads at about 8:38 a.m. The bridge’s clearance is 10 feet, 11 inches.
The average height of a commercial tractor-trailer is between 131⁄2 and 14 feet, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
The crash caused substantial damage to the 2006 Freight Line tractor-trailer.
“The truck was basically destroyed,” Marchewka said. “It had to be towed from the scene.”
There were no reported injuries.
Just after 11 a.m., the state Department of Transportation closed both lanes on Glenridge Road at the overpass to clean up after the crash.
Glenville police said Canadian Pacific Railroad and the DOT inspected the overpass and determined there was no damage to the road or bridge.
Glenridge Road was reopened to traffic at about 2 p.m.
Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle said the bridge often causes issues for large trucks or 18-wheelers.
“This happens a ton,” Koetzle said Thursday. “The problem with this bridge is, it’s always been too low.”
In 2011, the state Department of Transportation began an $11.7 million project to reconstruct 0.4 of a mile of Glenridge Road between state Route 146 and Maple Avenue in the towns of Glenville and Clifton Park.
As part of the project, two railroad underpasses were widened to accommodate two 11-foot travel lanes and 6-foot shoulders on each side, according to Bryan Viggiani, a spokesman for the DOT.
While planning the road reconstruction, there was discussion of raising the bridge, but the DOT quickly found increasing the bridge’s clearance wasn’t possible.
The Glenville bridge couldn’t be raised for several reasons, Viggiani said — the main one being because of the railroad tracks.
“A rise in railroad tracks has to be gradual — it can’t be up and down like a car could handle,” Viggiani said. “To have that gradual incline, we’re talking miles of track being redone in both directions.”
The already-$11.7 million project was estimated to be $15 million to $20 million more if the state had taken on the task, Viggiani said.
“You can’t go much lower there, either,” Viggiani said of lowering the road. “It’s not something you can dig into, because of the creek right there. . . . There were concerns of flooding.”
Residents in the surrounding residential community also didn’t want the road to become inundated with trucks.
“We heard residents’ concerns from that area who didn’t want the bridges raised regardless of the cost because they didn’t want that road to become a truck route,” Viggiani said. “Unless a truck is under that 10-foot-11-inch clearnace height, it’s not allowed on that road.”
Construction work on the bridge and road was completed in September 2013.
Since then, Marchewka said, about 20 similar accidents of tractor trailers colliding with the bottom of the bridge have occurred.
“It’s an ongoing issue there,” Marchewka said. “We’ve been working with the DOT on this. They’ve been a big assistance.”
Within the past year, Glenville police said, the DOT has put up extra signage to warn drivers of the bridge’s low height, and painted the roadway with white lettering dozens of feet before the bridge to say, “Low bridge ahead.”
After Thursday’s accident, Marchewka said Thompson was ticketed for failing to obey a traffic control device, or the posted signs signaling the bridge clearance height.
“Before you even get to the bridge, there are numerous signs warning the drivers of the height,” Marchewka said. “I feel like the signs are adequately posted. . . . If you’re paying attention like you should to these roads, you’ll see them.
“You also need to be aware of what you’re hauling, and how high it is.”
Even when commercial truck drivers or people renting a smaller moving truck see the signs and pull over in time, Marchewka said, police often have to shut the road down so the large vehicle can safely turn around.
“We probably have to do that once a week,” Marchewka said. “The signs are working, but it takes a lot of time to handle that and is an inconvenience to the public.
“It’s an issue on both ends,” he said. “Either way, people need to pay attention.”
Reach Gazette reporter Kate Seckinger at 395-3113, [email protected] or @KateSeckinger on Twitter.
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