Bridge v Tractor Trailers

The MBTA railroad bridge over River Street keeps taking hits

Above: Yesterday, a truck was stuck after hitting the commuter rail bridge over River Street in Southborough. It may have been the fifth incident this year alone. (image cropped from photo contributed by John Kendall)

For over 14 years, resident John Kendall has been raising attention through this blog of the too frequent incidents of tractor trailers hitting the railroad bridge over River Street. This week, there was another incident.

I checked in with Police Chief Newell to see if he could share how many times this occurred since I wrote about a crash in February 2020. He looked into it and found 11 incidents reported (including yesterday’s).

According to Chief Newell:

Each varied in degree of severity, with some being a “suspected” strike (debris found on the ground under bridge) to the degree of a full force strike with the truck stuck underneath.

Each time the SPD learns about the bridge being struck, they inform the railroad. Back in 2020, Kendall informed me that after each report “engineers have to inspect the bridge before trains can resume passing through and going back to normal speeds.”

River Street bridge truck accident (contributed)Sometimes, trailers’ roofs have been shorn (either partially like the image right contributed in 2020, or the full “convertible” look captured by MWDN in 2013).

Truck jammed under bridge on River St (edited from photo contributed by John Kendall)Other times, like yesterday, trailers have to be extricated after jamming themselves into the too small opening.

Kendall noted in the past that while GPS navigation systems for commercial trucking warn drivers, not all drivers use them and common apps like Google Maps don’t flag the low clearance.

In 2009, Kendall pushed for increased signage like Westborough installed:

If you drive on Route 30 into Westborough, they have signage that starts at Lyman Street warning truckers of the low bridge that carries the railroad over Route 30 near Bay State Commons.  The signage was redesigned after numerous truck accidents.  They even have signs in the French language for truckers from Quebec.

But, in Chief Newell’s response to my inquiry, he highlighted that same bridge as an example of other towns continuing to have similar issues. He wrote of the bridge:

Increased signage; lights; etc.- nothing seems to be making a difference. The Westborough Chief advised me that they are constantly having to head out there for bridge strikes or to back up tractor trailer units.

In looking at Google Maps for images of Westborough’s bridge, one side has clear bright signage on the overpass warning of low clearance. In the reverse direction it looks like a truck had struck down a good portion of the sign warning eastbound traffic!

Railroad bridge over East Main St Westborough - westbound Railroad bridge over East Main St Westborough - eastbound

Back in 2009, Kendall noted that the incidents in Southborough (which he can hear from his nearby home) were happening too frequently. Incidents that were covered by this blog (mostly through police logs) show that there were at least 7 more in the years 2013-2020.

In looking at police records for 2020 until now, Chief Newell only one noted from that year, but incidents may* have been increasing since:

  • 2021: 2
  • 2022: 4
  • 2023: 5

*As I already stated, Newell’s communication indicates some of the accidents were suspected based on observed evidence. Plus, we can’t know how many crashes weren’t captured in the records because drivers didn’t report them and evidence wasn’t observed.

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John Kendall
10 months ago

It’s about time our state legislators are notified and take an interest in this. Report every accident to the State Police Commercial Vehicle Section. And it’s not just Southborough and Westborough. It’s Dedham, Boston, and who knows where else. Somebody has to wake these truckers up!

Jim Foley
10 months ago

It seems to me an easy solution would be to install an overhead metal arm similar to one you might find at a McDonald’s drive through. If they can’t fit under the arm they can’t fit under the bridge. If they hit the arm it would be far less issue than hitting the bridge.

Kelly Roney
10 months ago

Do the authorities ask the drivers, “Were you relying on Google Maps?” Or even do deeper research about why drivers are taking these routes that don’t work for them?

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