OLATHE, KS (KCTV) -- Trains come through Spruce Street and just West of Kansas Avenue in Olathe often and no one wants to wait. So, they go under it on Spruce, unless they’re trucks.
“Trucks get stuck up under there all the time,” James Bracy, who is an Olathe resident, said. “At least two or three times a year.”
KCTV5 asked police for a list over the past two years and found six, all with the words, “struck the bridge.”
“And it blocks off all that road and the traffic from coming through. Makes it really painful to go the other way,” Terry Steburg, another Olathe resident, said.
An old clearance sign hints at how long it’s been a problem.
“The railroad bridge went over Spruce Street as far back as in 1941,” Beth Wright, Deputy Director of Public Works, said.
“They used to put accidents like this on the front-page news. I found an account in 1972,” David Kumke, Traffic Operations Manager, said.
It’s so notorious, there’s a Facebook page about it.
“I just giggle about it,” Steburg said.
Olathe’s hardly the only place with a notoriously low clearance bridge. The clearance is 11 feet 4 inches, which is four inches lower than another that’s achieved national infamy.
The 11-foot 8-inch bridge in North Carolina has a nickname: The Can Opener Bridge. 131 incidents have been documented on video since 2008. Often the culprits are in moving trucks and rentals, not professional long-haul drivers.
“The railroad needs to be raised up or the street needs to be dug,” Bracy said.
Raising the Olathe bridge would be up to the BNSF railroad. They’re the ones who pay for repairs to the damage and they’ve repeatedly said no way.
The law requires the sign under the bridge and one ahead of it.
“And if you didn’t hear it, then, yes, there’s something wrong with your hearing,” Steburg said.
The system uses an infrared sensor to gauge a vehicle’s height, which triggers flashing lights and a siren. The city said the siren clinched it. Since then…
“We’ve had over 250 activations of the system. We’ve only had three hits,” Kumke said.
That fix cost $82,000, but that’s a lot less than the city’s estimates to lower the road.
“The initial estimates for that type of project is around $15 million,” Wright said.
Not the best budget idea when the cost to taxpayers for each wreck is in time, not dollars.
The dollars are on the railroad and the truck renters who hopefully have that extra insurance.