Latest truck-bridge collision snarls McPhillips traffic
Source: Winnipeg Free Press
Published: June 12, 2007

ANOTHER day -- another truck driver who must have failed math.

Traffic on McPhillips Street, as well as the rail traffic above, was thrown into chaos for several hours after yet another truck with an over-dimension load slammed into a lower-than-normal bridge on Monday afternoon.

Rail traffic at the CP Rail yard on both sides of McPhillips Street was delayed for about an hour, while vehicular traffic was blocked from passing through the heavily used underpass, just north of Logan Avenue, for four hours in the afternoon until civic structural engineers gave the A-OK that the crossing was safe to drive under.

"Traffic is terrible, it's crappy... it's disgusting," said Dan Knight as he sat in his pickup truck on Alexander Street Monday afternoon, trying to squeeze his way onto Arlington Street.

Traffic on McPhillips was re-opened at 5:15 p.m.


Ken Allen, a spokesman for the city's public works department, could only shake his head at the most recent example of a truck driver failing to know the height of his load and the underpass.

"Our structures are clearly marked for vehicle clearance," Allen said.

"The bottom line is it's the driver's responsibility to ensure they have clearance when they're moving these vehicles through these structures."

The truck, owned by EJR Reload Inc., was heading north on McPhillips Street when the container box it was pulling on a flatbed trailer struck the under-structure of the underpass just north of Logan Avenue.

The steel container box was peeled open like a can of sardines, exposing its load of numerous industrial rolls of plastic wrap. The force of the collision tipped the container onto its side. The cab itself was sitting upright but the trailer frame was badly twisted.

The container was painted a dark brown, which initially resulted in confusion from the first witnesses calling 911 who said that a train boxcar had fallen from the rail line to the street below.

Above the wreckage of the container, the damaged yellow sign showing the maximum height of trucks allowed under the underpass -- 3.9 metres -- was still visible.

A yellow sign on the back of the container said it alone was 96 inches high, or 2.44 metres. It was not known how much height the trailer itself added to that.

For several minutes the truck driver sat in his cab underneath the rail crossing, not getting out. Paramedics said the driver hurt his knee, but refused medical treatment. When the driver finally emerged, after firefighters ordered him out because they weren't sure the crossing was structurally safe above the driver, the male driver refused to speak to the Free Press.

No one from EJR Reload Inc., on 250 Sutherland Ave., returned a call for comment.

Brad Sacher, manager of transportation engineering for the City of Winnipeg, said there was only superficial damage to the underpass. The centre median guard rail was damaged when the container tipped onto it. There was also some damage to the fencing along the rail line walkway above the overpass.

Bob Dolyniuk, general manager of the Manitoba Trucking Association, couldn't speak for the company involved in the collision or the driver. But Dolyniuk said he did have something to say on behalf of the province's trucking industry.

"From an industry perspective, we're embarrassed that it happened," he said.

"We apologize for any inconvenience it caused."

Dolyniuk said he couldn't understand why a truck from EJR Reload Inc., would be involved in a collision of this type because they are based nearby and would be heavy users of the underpass.

"A commercial professional driver should know the height of their load -- no ifs, buts or maybes."

Breanne Feigel, a CP Rail spokeswoman, said rail traffic began using the overpass again about an hour after the collision occurred. "Our structural people have deemed it safe for trains," she said.

Feigel also urged truckers to pay more attention to the height of their loads and where they are travelling.

"It's a general rule of running trucks underneath anything," she said.

"We have to work together to make sure they're aware of the heights."

Allen said it's simple for truckers to get around the city by either going to the city's website for a truck route map or picking up one when they apply for an oversize permit.

--With files from Aldo Santin