More work planned as Queen Street bridge reels from second collision

Anthony Maenza
York Dispatch

Large trucks have a strange attraction to the Queen Street bridge in York Township.

For the second time in six months, PennDOT scrambled to deal with severe damage resulting from a vehicle — this time a dump truck — slamming into the Route 74 bridge that crosses over Interstate 83.

The collision forced the state Department of Transportation to detour traffic, including on a section of I-83, on Wednesday and Thursday and divert a construction crew that was set up at another bridge project closer to Harrisburg.

Despite the new damage to the Queen Street bridge, PennDOT was able to get enough done to reopen I-83 in time for rush hour traffic Thursday afternoon, spokesperson Fritzi Schreffler said. But there's still a lot of work to do, she added.

It’s not clear how much more it will cost PennDOT to permanently repair the bridge with the additional damage, according to Dave Thompson, another PennDOT spokesperson. Costs to repair the damage from the February incident were estimated at $600,000.

Schreffler said Wednesday's crash occurred just before 3 p.m., when the driver of a northbound dump truck attempted to drive under the overpass with the truck’s bed raised.

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The bed of the truck remained wedged under the bridge for much of Wednesday night, Schreffler said, before it was finally extracted. 

"From pictures we have seen, it was really wedged in there and required several cuts to be able to pull it out," she said.

The stricken bridge and efforts to repair it resulted in traffic snarls that rippled outward from the area of I-83's Queen Street exit for much of the day Thursday as crews worked to repair the bridge.

Thompson said that, as of Thursday afternoon, the Queen Street bridge should partially reopen to traffic sometime Friday morning. Ultimately, three lanes on the Queen Street bridge will be open. Southbound travelers will have one lane open, he said, while the northbound side will have two lanes open.  

Police and PennDOT have not disclosed the names of the companies responsible for either of the bridge collisions this year.

I-83 traffic is diverted as workers effort to stabilize South Queen Street bridge in York Township, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022. The bridge was struck Wednesday and was deemed unsafe to be driven on and under.

The York Dispatch filed a Right-to-Know Law request for that information related to the previous collision. PennDOT asked for an extension for a response to that Right-to-Know request until Sept. 21.

Thompson, in a previous interview, said PennDOT is in litigation with the trucking company whose driver damaged the bridge in February and that the department hopes to recover the repair costs.

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Repairs from that incident were originally expected to be completed by the end of the year, although it's unclear what the new collision does to that timeline. Prior to Wednesday's collision, PennDOT reported needing to replace several damaged beams and straighten several others, repaint parts of the bridge and replace several portions of the Queen Street bridge deck above the damage.

Crews with contractor JD Eckman Inc. were pulled off repairs scheduled to be completed this weekend on the I-83 bridge that crosses the Susquehanna River in Harrisburg in order to perform emergency repairs on the Queen Street bridge instead, PennDOT said.  

Interstate 83 traffic is diverted around the South Queen Street bridge while workers effort to stabilize the structure in York Township, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022. The bridge was struck by a truck driving beneath the overpass on Wednesday. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Thompson said that construction crews are continuing to work to stabilize the bridge after the new damage. The support truss put in place in February to stabilize the bridge was not damaged. 

“It did hit the outside facia beam again and then damaged an adjacent beam internally under the bridge,” Thompson said. “We’re using the support system we have in place right now to stabilize the damaged area.” 

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The new damage to the bridge will likely push back construction on permanent repairs that were supposed be completed this fall, Thompson said. 

“We’ve had to take a couple steps back from that, reassess the damage and kind of figure out what needs to be done to permanently repair the new damage,” Thompson said. “It will basically expand the project we had planned to include the additional damage.” 

Interstate 83 traffic is diverted around the South Queen Street bridge while workers effort to stabilize the structure in York Township, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022. The bridge was struck by a truck driving beneath the overpass on Wednesday. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Schreffler said JD Eckman, which is working to stabilize the bridge for now, is also contracted to complete the repairs from the February incident. 

"At some point, we will need to come back in and do a more permanent repair/replacement, but that needs to be planned out and we will certainly advise you when that happens," she said. 

In addition to the damage to the bridge itself, Schreffler said, I-83's northbound lanes were damaged and needed to be patched. 

Schreffler said she believed the dump truck driver involved was injured, but she did not know the extent of his injuries. Pennsylvania State Police spokesman Kevin Kochka said Thursday there was no update on the driver’s condition. 

A motorist passing by at the time of the crash had their windshield shattered by debris, Schreffler added. 

— Reach Anthony Maenza at amaenza@yorkdispatch.com or @atmaenza on Twitter. 

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