Reporting Mike Hellgren
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)—High winds on the Bay Bridge overturn a tractor trailer, nearly sending it over the guardrail. Now, there is new scrutiny surrounding the Bay Bridge’s storm safety protocol.
Mike Hellgren looks into whether the truck should have even been on the bridge in the first place.
Thousands of drivers cross the Bay Bridge everyday. Now there are concerns about what’s being done to keep them safe after several wind related incidents.
Powerful winds with gusts more than 50 mph lifted a tractor trailer off the ground and threw it against the barrier wall on the Bay Bridge like a toy Wednesday afternoon.
The crash shut down both spans of the bridge for hours.
Top Maryland transportation officials confirm to WJZ they’re reviewing whether anything could’ve prevented this.
“So that we can continuously learn from each event. The tractor trailer incident from yesterday will be no different from any other event that occurs at any of our facilities,” said Deb Sharpless, MDTA deputy executive secretary.
WJZ obtained the MDTA wind guidelines.
At the time the trailer crossed, a wind restriction was in place banning empty trailers. So, how did it get by?
The agency says drivers get ample notice, including from electronic signs.
Toll booth operators can also warn drivers, but the bottom line is it’s up to those drivers to police themselves.
“I don’t have any [concerns] because if the wind is over 35 mph, I’m not going across that bridge,” said James Smith, truck driver. “There are signs on both sides of the bridge. The driver just didn’t pay attention.”
“It’s the state’s responsibility for the truck not going across that bridge, period. It’s simple. But if it’s empty, you can’t have that truck on that bridge,” said Gene Dobson, truck driver.
The accident on Wednesday is the second in less than a year.
During the derecho, another tractor trailer was thrown to the barrier walls.
“You’re looking over the guardrail and you see 10 foot white caps and there’s no place to go,” described Allan Charles, who was stuck on the bridge in July 2012.
The MDTA has since changed wind policy, making it more flexible and taking big gusts into account, and closing the bridge, for example, during Superstorm Sandy and says safety is always paramount.
When sustained winds go above 55 mph or there are three wind gusts that exceed 55 mph in a 10 minute period, traffic is shut down on the bridge.
The truck driver in the incident Wednesday was taken to the hospital for minor injuries.
The MDTA is still investigating if that driver ignored the warning and knowingly crossed the bridge.
MDTA’s wind restrictions went into effect in response to last summer’s derecho. To read the complete Wind Restriction Guideline, click here.