While a certain 11-foot-8 bridge in Durham, North Carolina tends to get all the love, America happens to be full of extremely uncompromising underpasses that never fail to make careless drivers of tall vehicles pay for their indiscretion. One such bridge stands over King of Prussia Road in Radnor, Pennsylvania .
The bridge’s primary purpose is to carry Amtrak and SEPTA trains; its other, less official responsibility is to remind motorists to read in the most punishing way possible.
It did this again Thursday afternoon when a truck carrying vehicles with Carmax plates struck the 10-foot, 10-inch bridge, toppling a Ford Escape and compacting a Jeep Grand Cherokee into a vaguely cube-like, jagged version of its former self. The cars were unoccupied and nobody was injured in the incident, Radnor Police reported. The road was closed on both sides of the underpass at 1:40 p.m. local time.
As you might imagine, this happens fairly often in Radnor. So often that back in 2017, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that 43 vehicles crashed into the bridge between then and 2008. Each time, the resulting emergency response shuts down the surrounding section of road for anywhere from 45 minutes to 12 hours. Then, Amtrak engineers have to investigate the damage caused to the bridge. The police department’s Facebook post about today’s crash is flooded with comments remarking on the regularity of it all.
A trio of low clearance warnings flank each side of the underpass as Google Maps illustrates, but they haven’t helped. Last fall, the town considered imposing a steep fine of $1,500 on a driver or operating company whose vehicle jams up the bridge. Repeat offenders would’ve had to pay $2,500.
I’m no expert, but if I remember correctly, fines are only effective in changing behavior if the fine itself is less desirable than the action that triggers it. I don’t think any commercial drivers want to peel the tops off their trucks, or would be less likely to do it if a ticket entered the mix. Plus, they’d have to be aware of the penalty in the first place. All a fine would do is make the town a buck every time this happens, not discourage it from happening. The bridge really ought to be raised, but as it’s federal property, that’s proven easier said than done.