Next summer, a new laser detection and warning system will be installed that may prevent many of the problems at the “can-opener” on West Central Avenue in Delaware.
City Council on Monday unanimously approved an agreement with the Ohio Department of Transportation for $215,000 in Federal Highway Administration safety funds to install a height warning system near the CSX railroad bridge on West Central. The system is said to be the first of its kind in the state.
The 12-foot, 7-inch Central Avenue bridge, between Morning Street and Euclid Avenue, is known locally as the “can-opener,” because the drivers of tall semi-trucks who ignore the current signs get the tops of their trailers torn off when they drive under it.
Some drivers with tall trucks who stop just before reaching the bridge still require the help of police for them to back up and use an alternate route.
City officials say 30 accidents and 75 turnarounds have occurred since 2010, costing the city $15,000 for emergency response, traffic control and cleaning up debris. There’s also the hassle of delays to motorists.
When they discussed the legislation Monday, council members also noted there could be delays for emergency vehicles traveling on Central or people trying to get to Grady Memorial Hospital during an incident.
Despite the current signage and fines for hitting the bridge or having to turn around, council members and city officials still couldn’t get over the number of can-opener incidents, with the most recent occurrence on Sept. 4.
Carter Johnson, a citizen who spoke during the public portion of Monday’s meeting, suggested a doubling of the fines. Council members Chris Jones suggested using those fines for maintenance of the new system.
City Director of Public Works William Ferrigno said the new system is “dynamic,” with two sets of signage that would be activated if a truck is detected by laser to be higher than the bridge. Ferrigno said the locations for the signs haven’t been decided.
According to ODOT, the over-height detection system could reduce the number of “can-opener” incidents by 65 to 70 percent.
“How annoying that we have to do this,” said council member Lisa Keller. “They’re driving a truck. Wake up.”
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.