Durham’s infamous ‘can opener’ bridge to be raised

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — An infamous Durham bridge known for ripping the tops off of trucks — a bridge that even has its own website — will be getting raised up this week, Durham transportation officials said.

The North Carolina Railroad Overpass at Gregson Street, also known as the “can opener” or the “11 foot 8 bridge,” will be getting raised up with construction beginning on Wednesday and running through at least Nov. 5.

“The Gregson Street Bridge rehabilitation will involve raising the bridge to increase the roadway clearance from 11’8” to 12’4” for the purpose of improving safety for the community while reducing the threat of damage resulting from vehicle strikes.  The additional eight inches will maximize the increased clearance without affecting the grade of adjoining track on each side of the bridge.  This is a $500,000 project that is funded solely by NCRR,” wrote Jim Kessler, vice president of engineering for the North Carolina Railroad Company, in an email to CBS17.

The construction will end an era of drivers not paying attention to signs and flashing lights warning them of the bridge’s height and then having the top of their truck torn off.

Jurgen Henn, who works nearby, saw the crashes happen so frequently, he installed cameras in April 2008. Since then, he’s uploaded videos of 147 crashes. Millions of people around the world have watched his videos on his website 11foot8.com.

“Some people find it pretty amusing. There’s probably a good dose of schadenfreude there,” he said. “People are curious about the weirdest things.”

He even sells scrap pieces of metal from the trucks damaged in the crashes on his website.

Henn said he’s optimistic the increased clearance under the bridge will improve safety. He says he initially started posting the videos in an effort to raise awareness.

“I think it’ll help. I think it’s a big improvement,” he said.

Jacqueline Morgan, who co-owns Morgan Imports near the bridge, said she’s also optimistic it’ll reduce the number of crashes. She’s also concerned about the impact the two-week construction period could have on her business and surrounding businesses. Many of them were impacted earlier this year by the gas explosion on Duke Street and the subsequent road closures in the area.

“Having it at this time of the year after we’ve had an explosion across the street, streets have been closed. It’s a little awkward for the retail and the restaurant environments going into the fourth quarter to have the main streets closed,” she said.

The Durham Transportation Department released information on road closures and detours due to the work.

According to DTD, southbound Gregson through traffic will need to use Morgan Street, Main Street, Buchanan Boulevard and Chapel Hill Street. Brightleaf Square businesses and parking will still be accessible from Gregson Street while the construction is underway.

If you need to access the Wexford/Chesterfield parking garage on W. Pettigrew Street, you will need to use Chapel Hill Street, Duke Street, Memorial Street, and then turn right on Gregson Street (which will be a temporary two-way street) and then turn left at the temporary all-way stop at Pettigrew Street.

According to DTD, driver and emergency vehicles will be able to drive on the gravel portion of Pettigrew Street between Duke and Gregson streets as an alternate route to the deck.

The Peace Street Bridge in downtown Raleigh is still tearing tops off of trucks if you’re a fan of that sort of thing.

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