When you drive a tractor-trailer, the first rule is probably always to make sure you don't smash your cargo into an overpass. Yet on Thursday morning that's exactly what happened. A tractor-trailer in the greater Lansing, Michigan area was just 300 feet away from arriving at a Gault auto dealership to drop off four cars when it plowed into the Front Street Railroad Bridge.
The cars were badly damaged, and total costs from the wreck were in the range of $85,000 to $100,000. That figure includes the repairs needed to fix the front steel frame of the trailer, which was also a casualty of the crash, according to a report by pressconnects.com, a news website run by the Gannett company.
The police officer on the scene summed up the accident.
"When a truck that's 13 feet 6 inches tall tries to drive under a bridge that's not quite that tall, it doesn't make it," said city Patrolman Jeff Carpenter, who responded to the scene.
The freak accident it turns out isn't so freakish.
About three to four such incidents occur per year in Michigan, pressconnects reports, and this year has already seen four such accidents. The most recent witnessed the crash of a furniture truck.
The mismatch of local tractor trailers, and the failure of drivers to abide, is of a piece with the Midwest's ongoing infrastructure crisis. Most famously, in 2008, the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed in Minneapolis.
The tragedy took 13 lives, and was seen as a wakeup call to fix the nation's hobbled infrastructure. The final investigation concluded one of the bridge's metal plates was not thick enough to sustain all the bridge's girders. The collapse of the bridge, which was built in the 1960's, was held up as a potential symbol of America's backslide as Asian giants continued their assent, embodied by their state-of-the-art infrastructure.
"This could well be a one-off thing. But you don't know that," said one of the National Transportation Safety Board inspectors at the time, according to the New York Times.
Leading labor commentators including former Clinton cabinet member Robert Reich have pointed out the opportunity provided by the infrastructure woes -- the chance to put the unemployed back to work.
The proposals have sprung up for sectors not just related to transportation. Most notably, Illinois Democratic Representative Jan Schakowsky has led the charge to jump start the upgrade the country's worn down public school buildings. The program, known as Fix America's Schools Today (FAST), notes that the country's buildings are on average forty years old, and would benefit from roughly $500 billion worth of repairs. FAST projects the program could employ some 500,000 workers.