MDOT: Minor damage to U.S. 12 bridge after collision

Leader photo/CRAIG HAUPERT Public safety officials observe the scene created when an excavator struck the U.S. 12 overpass Monday. Damage was determined to be minor.

Leader photo/CRAIG HAUPERT
Public safety officials observe the scene created when an excavator struck the U.S. 12 overpass Monday. Damage was determined to be minor.

For the second time in less than a year, an excavator being hauled on the back of a flat-bed trailer hit the U.S. 12 bridge where it crosses South 11th Street in Niles.

It happened before 10 a.m. Monday morning, causing northbound traffic on South 11th to be rerouted until the piece of machinery and trailer was removed around 1 p.m.

Nick Schirripa, of the Michigan Department of Transportation, said the excavator hit the same beam that was struck by another excavator on March 12, 2015.

He said damage resulting from this incident was “very minor” and that the bridge is safe.

“If it wasn’t we wouldn’t reopen it,” he said.

Coincidentally, Schirippa said MDOT is in the process of wrapping up a contract to replace the same bridge beam damaged in last year’s incident.

Since damage from Monday’s hit was so minimal, the replacement project can go forward as planned.

“We got lucky on this one if there is such thing as good luck in a situation like this,” he said.

A Michigan State Police trooper at the scene said no one was injured, but the impact caused the trailer to detach from the truck that was pulling it. The truck was traveling north on South 11th Street. The driver was issued an over height citation.

Troy Farkas, manager of the Niles CAT rental store, said the excavator was a rental from his store. He estimated the cost of the machine at $80,000 or more.

Although he did not speak about the specifics of this incident, Farkas said a person or business renting equipment from CAT is responsible for checking the height of the equipment.

Farkas, who has worked at the Niles store since 2012, said it is unusual to see two similar accidents like this occur in a relatively short time span.

“It’s a bit of an anomaly I would say,” he said.

Schirripa sai to his knowledge the bridge has only been struck twice.

A sign on the bridge says it has a clearance height of 13 feet, 9 inches.

Schirripa said, although it is one of the lowest clearance heights in the region, it falls within state and federal guidelines.

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