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I-81 overpass at Route 177 hit by tractor-trailer


It happened again.

One of the bridges that go over Interstate 81 was struck by a vehicle Tuesday afternoon. This time, it was the overpass for Route 177, near Adams Center.

A too-tall backhoe, towed by a southbound tractor-trailer on a flat-bed trailer, struck the overpass about 5:20 p.m. Tuesday, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department investigators said. No one was injured.

The heavy equipment’s boom struck the bottom of the overpass, investigators said.

The driver of the tractor-trailer was William J. Shamper, 57, Harrington, Pa., The truck is owned by Formula Leasing, Ontario, Canada. It was insured. State police were unable to say Wednesday whether traffic was backed up because of the mishap.

Every so often, the same kind of thing happens to the Interstate 81 overpasses. It happens so often the state Department of Transportation decided earlier this year to use infrared sensors on the busy highway at the South Harbor Road overpass.

DOT crews installed height detection sensors to a permanent message board near the bridge, which has an underpass clearance of 14 feet, 3 inches.

A tractor-trailer heading south that is too tall would activate a sign beacon north of the bridge. To avoid the hazard, trucks can detour to the bridge and return to the road without changing direction.

The South Harbor Road bridge was last hit in October 2012 by a crane bucket fastened to a flatbed tractor-trailer, causing traffic to be detoured. A previous such accident, in March 2011, led to several months of repairs and partial road closures.

DOT spokesman Michael R. Flick said such crashes can be avoided.

“The simplest thing there is for the carrier to go ‘up and over,’ as there is an exit there that allows anyone who is over height – or thinks they may be over height – to exit 81, and then go straight across Route 177, back onto 81 without having to interact with the bridge,” he said.

That bridge is scheduled for replacement in 2015, he said.

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