11-foot-8 ’can opener’ railroad bridge in N.C. will be raised

Thanks to the videos chronicling the truck crashes, not everyone is cheering

Over the years, we’ve written a few times about an infamous railroad trestle in Durham, North Carolina known as the “can opener” for its propensity to shear off the tops of trucks that pass underneath it without heeding warning signs about its perilously low clearance of 11 feet, 8 inches. Now, those days may be coming to a close, which will disappoint anyone who can’t help but chuckle at the many videos documenting the sardine-can encounters.

In a tweet, the Durham Transportation Department announced it will shut down the offending bridge at 201 Gregson Street starting this week in order to raise the bridge by 8 inches to 12 feet, 4 inches. The department’s interim director, Bill Judge, told The Huffington Post that’s “the most they can raise it” without having to reconstruct another nearby bridge.

The bridge warns oncoming trucks via numerous signs and laser-triggered final warning signal if they’re too tall to pass underneath. It's reportedly nearly 100 years old, built at a time when there were no standards of minimum clearance.

Construction work is expected to wrap up by Nov. 5 and cost $500,000, according to the North Carolina Railroad Company, which owns the trestle.

Jurgen Henn is a Duke University employee behind the website His offices give him a prime view of the bridge intersection, and he’s had cameras set up monitoring it since 2008, feeding a YouTube channel with more than 25 million views. His most recently published video is from Oct. 14, uploaded “After a bit of a summer lull,” and shows an excavator clipping the underside. The dumptruck hauling it on a trailer passes underneath without incident, but the top of the backhoe hinge crashes violently into the crash beam, reportedly dislodging a bunch of debris left over from previous collisions. It was crash No. 148 since Henn began the site.

Users on Twitter voiced their mocking disapproval to the news, with one suggesting they instead lower the bridge and play limbo music. Alas, HuffPo notes that North Carolina law allows commercial vehicles to be as tall as 13 feet, 6 inches, suggesting there may still be some mishaps when the raised bridge debuts.

In 2013, officials in Sydney, Australia turned to a novel approach in dealing with a similarly short clearance, employing a technology company to project a bright red stop sign onto a water screen if the system detects a vehicle too tall to enter the Sydney Harbour Tunnel.

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