Crews repair Olive Road overpass after latest wreck

Damage caused by automobile accidents is not unusual for Augusta’s Olive Road railroad overpass.

Thirty-five wrecks have occurred in the low-clearance zone of 10 feet, 6 inches since 2000. The latest, which happened earlier this month, brought out CSX railroad crews, who spent most of Wednesday repairing damage to an employee walkway along the track.

“We would appreciate if folks would pay attention to the signage,” said Carla Groleau, the CSX communications director.

Traffic Engineer Dennis Ellis said incidents have decreased since precautions were added after a fatal 2006 crash, but it’s rare for a year to pass without the roof of a passing truck clipping supports of the railroad that crosses Olive Road.

In February 2006, Isaiah Dominique Lewis, 24, died when a U-Haul truck coming the opposite direction hit the overpass, causing a support beam to fall onto Lewis’ vehicle.

Engineers have since installed larger signs, rumble strips and warning lights.

The motorist who hit the overpass this month told deputies he stopped the Budget Truck Rental truck at the stop sign and saw the sign stating no trucks were allowed, but he continued and hit the bridge support.

The same thing happened last year when a driver told police he disregarded the signs and signals and hit the overpass after “misjudging the clearance.”

Engineers have experimented with warning strategies over the years, but all “devices” were removed after creating more problems.

At one point, chains were suspended from a steel wire to hit the top of vehicles too large. The chains were removed because the vehicles frequently broke the wire, making it unsafe and unfeasible to maintain.

Vehicle owners were also demanding the city repair dents and scratches to their vehicles, Ellis said.

At one point, an electric eye was put nearby to set off warning bells similar to those in a railroad crossing. The alarms, however, were frequently set off by birds, children throwing things and tall vehicles. Nearby residents complained of the noise until they were removed.

“There’s nothing left to try,” Ellis said.

A study provided by Augusta Traffic Engineering estimates 4,500 to 5,000 vehicles pass under the overpass daily.

changes to the road are not possible. A high water table prevents engineers from lowering the road, and raising the overpass would cause problems for CSX.

Ellis said most of the drivers who hit the overpass are local and should know not to risk it. Twenty-nine of the 35 drivers who have hit the overpass since 2000 are from the Augusta area, according to Traffic Engineering.

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VEHICLE WRECKS

Number of wrecks at the Olive Road overpass since 2000:

2013 1

2012 1

2011 0

2010 0

2009 2

2008 0

2007 2

2006 2

2005 2

2004 3

2003 8

2002 8

2001 2

2000 4

Source: Augusta Traffic Engineering

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