"Truck Trap" grabs more victims at Grant and Commercial bridge

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. Commercial Street is thriving these days and many trucks pass through the area providing goods to the businesses.

But for some of the trucks that pass through the area there's a trap waiting for them if they're unaware of the danger.

The latest example came yesterday when a semi-truck had a large piece of its trailer roof torn-off when it failed to negotiate the 11-foot, 6-inch clearance of the Grant Avenue bridge, one of several structures just north of Commercial that allow the BNSF trains to pass overhead.

The other bridges have less traffic and higher ceilings though which is why the Grant Avenue bridge in particular has become known as a truck trap with numerous big rigs getting stuck beneath the bridge despite attempts to warn drivers of the hazard with signs that point out the ceiling's exact height and others that say, "3 axles or more...low clearance...use truck route."

"No one's usually injured other than their pride," said Springfield Fire Chief David Pennington, who's worked a lot of the accidents. "What I find in talking to them is they're just not from here and they're trying to make a delivery. They make a wrong turn and find out a little bit too late they're not gonna fit."

"We've looked at different concepts to eliminate that with future projects," added Springfield Traffic Engineer Eric Claussen. "But we've tried to do that just with signing and truck restriction right now. We've seen a tremendous reduction since we've done that but we still see trucks from time to time get stuck."

BNSF is in charge of the bridge, which was built in 1926. It has a pedestrian pathway which has a lived-in look with trash and graffiti.

There are two lanes for traffic in the lower-ceiling area (11-feet, 6-inches) next to another lane that's 13-feet, 6-inches which is higher because of what the bridge was originally built to accommodate.

"On the single-lane side it was a little taller so they could run an electric line through there for the trolley car," explained John Sellars, the Executive Director of the Springfield History Museum on the Square. "On that corner of Commercial and Grant was a big oil jobber (petroleum marketer) and the biggest trucks available at that time were not 10-feet tall. Based on the size of all the vehicles of its time it was fine."

But times have changed and so have the sizes of trucks.

No figures are available as to the number of trucks trapped over the years but many people are familiar with the problem.

There's a nearby fire station that responds to the accidents, and with a tall ladder truck at the station, things can even get a little hairy for those who are supposed to provide help.

"I've never gone under it with my eyes open so I hear that we fit," Pennington said with a smile. "But all joking aside we have no problem fitting underneath that bridge."

Not everyone is so lucky though.

The overpass carries a lot of trains above that car and pedestrian traffic throughout the day because it's located near the rail yard so any attempt to tear down the old bridge and built a new one would definitely be difficult considering the high volume of train traffic.