The Drive: Are highway bridge rails too low?

  • Article by: Tim Harlow , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 20, 2014 - 8:11 AM

In the darkness of the frigid morning rush hour on Jan. 7, Anne Spiess took the ride of her life when her pickup truck flipped over a bridge railing and plummeted 40 to 60 feet onto a frozen holding pond below.

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raleighmamaJan. 19, 14 7:57 PM

If a car car drive over them...YES

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dustballJan. 19, 14 8:11 PM

"But the department passed on the idea after evidence showed that rails higher than 32 inches increase risks to vehicle occupants." I'd say it's less of a risk than actually going off the bridge, no? Snow banks along the edge of the roadway act as mini-ramps.

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mdcastleJan. 19, 14 8:35 PM

I know that thanks to environmental regulations you can't build a highway without them now. But it just seems like a bad idea to build a whole bunch of ponds right next to a major highway; it wasn't too long ago those kids were drowned on MN 100 when someone drove into a pond there.

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rogue37Jan. 19, 14 8:39 PM

what where the other factors? Was she driving to fast or distracted? You cant change things to stop all crashes. Humans make mistakes no matter how safe you think you have things.

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jastkeJan. 19, 14 8:43 PM

dustball makes an important point. It is critical to keep bridges clear of snow next to the rail. Every inch of snow on the driving surface is equivalent to an inch decrease in the height of the rail.

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chickadeedeeJan. 19, 14 8:46 PM

Additionally a man was killed recently after going off the 169 bridge in Bloomington. His car landed upside down. With the way the snow gets plowed against the railings, it seems natural that a car would "ride" the snow up and over...

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jessy03Jan. 19, 14 8:54 PM

From the time they built the new 35W bridge I've thought the side rails look too short on that as well - they don't look quite as tall as those on the Mendota Bridge.

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ralph6767Jan. 19, 14 9:12 PM

Dustball's point is valid. Snow plowed against the rails can indeed act like a ramp allowing vehicles to slide up and over the railing. MNDot removes snowbanks from many bridges, but it's a slow process and takes a while to get them all cleared.

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tracerbulletJan. 19, 14 9:15 PM

I'm fine with it on any new bridges and renovation work on current bridges, just let's not go spending a zillion dollars to retrofit what we have for the people who can't get it through their heads to drive slower if it's icy out.

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gopher1966Jan. 19, 14 9:43 PM

I knew it! The media shows an incredible video of an idiot driving WAY too fast for road conditions, and pays the price! It was only a matter of time before they start blaming the govt for rails too low! Incredibly predictable! And the sad thing is, many shallow non-thinking individuals will jump on the same bandwagon! This is MN. And the weather ... and road conditions were terrible that day! Impossible to keep clear all roads & bridges! Just common sense! Also common sense .... You drive SLOW under those conditions, especially if you're driving an older model, rear-wheel drive mid-size truck!!! Personal responsibility, folks! ... The advice: “MnDOT encourages drivers to use caution, especially on ramps and bridges when conditions cause them to be icy.” ... Gee, ya think!!!

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