Friday, June 7, 2013

Tight Squeeze

Snell Street Bridge 4:35 p.m.

So it took less than a year for our first somewhat serious accident to occur under the new Snell Street Bridge.  Obviously weather played a big role.  Fortunately no serious injuries.

It happened late Friday afternoon and by the looks of it the car coming down the slight incline hit her brakes and then slid on the wet pavement into the other car already in the underpass.

One woman was transported by AFD to Cooley Dickinson Hospital and both cars were towed from the scene.  Each vehicle had air bag deployment.   

Of course if the clearance under the bridge were a tad w-i-d-e-r people might not instinctively brake when they see another car already in the tight zone.

Last year's $315,000 state project did increase the height by 12", giving ambulances breathing room, but did not widen the space at all.

Editors note:  before taking picture I called 911, turned off one of the vehicle's engines, and helped one of the drivers find her glasses.


Walter Graff said...

It's a very dangerous place. It won't be the last, and there will be more serious injuries. Widening sounds logical but its much harder to do.

Anonymous said...

Let's see, spend $3 mil to widen it or just make the road one-way?

Walter Graff said...

What I have seen in such situations that works well is a stop sign at each side. ANd sometimes a single traffic light too. WE had Railroad overpasses in suburban Ny that could only fit one car. SOme had stop signs with notes to look. And others had traffic lights. No accidents since they put them in.

Anonymous said...

Good to see you're not 'a true journalist' who did not interfere by helping. Good show.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for helping, Larry. And I agree that with the folks who suggest a STOP, or at least YIELD, sign on both sides (or even on just the uphill side).

Dr. Ed said...

Maine has a much less intrusive and quite effective method -- a yellow sign that states "One-lane bridge ahead."

I really wonder why there wasn't a push to do this RIGHT -- exactly how would it have cost $3M to take a backhoe, dig out 10 feet of embankment on one side, and move all the granite blocks 10 feet?

I think the issue is the willingness to spend money on everything BUT better roads that make it possible for more cars to move safely.

Anonymous said...

And what people don't realize is that the auto insurance of EVERYONE in Amherst goes up because of this accident.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that you just happened to be the first one on the scene. You probably put banana peels on the road.

Anonymous said...

The more I think about this, the prudent driver expects a low underpass under an old iron railroad bridge to be narrow, possibly too narrow for two cars to safely pass each other.

But this bridge looks exactly like what it is -- a modern steel-beam bridge which of course is going to be built wide enough for two cars to safely be under at the same time.

It doesn't help that it now is a foot higher -- which gives it the illusion of being wider than it is.

I think the new bridge is far more dangerous than the old one. The solution, of course, is to open up that perfectly good but never-used bridge over the railtrail -- which will never happen.

Or the proposed (and needed) extension of University Drive to the south could extend beyond the dirtpile and all the way up to form a complete bypass of downtown...

Anonymous said...

I think a "Narrow Bridge" or "One Lane Road" sign would be effective. If a car skidded, they were going too fast anyway ...

Walter Graff said...

"I think a "Narrow Bridge" or "One Lane Road" sign would be effective."

Based on how I see people drive, these signs would be useless by themselves.

In other exactly identical situations that I have driven in with a single lane bridge, I see three methods that work well.

First in all instances each side has a warning side near the bridge that warns of a single lane bridge ahead.

Then option one is a yield sign on one side of the bridge with new line painting. The yield sign has an additional sign under it that states "yield to oncoming bridge traffic".

The second is one stop sign on one side with an additional sign that says "wait for oncoming bridge traffic to clear".

Option three is two stop signs on either side. Both with additional signs noting to "wait for oncoming bridge traffic to clear".

Any of those three options is clear and would alleviate any potential accidents as long as people followed traffic rules.

The biggest problem is that in both directions the bridge creates a blind spot as both lanes curve as they approach it. So a warning of a single lane bridge would not be enough. One or both directions of travel need to yield or stop.

Considering how fast people drive both ways on this street, some sort of traffic sign would really make a difference.

How about it ADW, send the state the plans and get the signage needed.

Dr. Ed said...

Walter, why is taking power away from people always part of your solution?

Most folk truly don't want to get into an auto accident, it kinda becomes a rather big hassle one doesn't need, and most folks will avoid one if possible. And those who won't tend also to be the ones who ignore "Stop" signs and run red lights and the rest.

Why is the least intrusive means of warning of a hazard (that really isn't apparent) not the best -- at least to try first? Wouldn't you attempt to avoid an accident if you were warned of a hazard???

Arguably, much as the height is marked, the width ought to be as well, except that how many people know that a lane on the interstate is 12 feet wide -- going straight, and wider on curves.

And you will likely find that the police adamantly OPPOSE a "STOP" sign there because as it doesn't meet "specs" of where one can be, they can't enforce it, and cops can't deal with that. But I digress...

But as most of us don't want to get into an accident, and will even avoid other vehicles to avoid an accident (now as to the subsequent 911 call with the plate number of the errant vehicle, well that is "probable cause" for what well may be an OUI arrest). So why be fascist?

Why not just warn?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have any statistics regarding how many accidents have occurred under/at/as a result of this underpass?

I don't know how to look for that.

Larry Kelley said...

You could ask APD under Public Documents law for the past year or two. Use the address of the house closest to the underpass on Snell as a reference point.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to know enough to make the APD do extra work when they are overloaded already, but thank you for the tip.