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This Cal Poly bridge just claimed another victim. How many trucks have crashed into it?

The railroad overpass at Cal Poly claimed another victim on Wednesday night.

A delivery truck carrying equipment for the university’s commencement got stuck beneath the bridge and its roof “crumpled like a sardine can,” according to the San Luis Obispo Fire Department.

Over the years, multiple vehicles — mostly trucks — have faced destruction when their drivers found out at the exact wrong time that the vehicles were just too tall for the bridge’s 12-foot, 6-inch clearance.

There was the crash that sheared the top off a double-decker city bus. The truck full of marijuana that smashed into the bridge and then disappeared, later turning up in the South County. The semi-trailer truck that was carrying mattresses when it was clotheslined by the bridge.

All of those incidents happened in 2016, which saw the most bridge crashes of any year in the past five years, according to university spokesman Matt Lazier.

A whopping nine vehicles crashed into the Highland Drive railroad overpass that year, Lazier said.

Since 2014, there have been 26 crashes into the bridge. Three of those occurred in 2019.

Cal Poly’s facilities department “is continuing to examine the area and determine what other options might help truck drivers who have not checked the height of their vehicles before attempting to drive through that area,” Lazier said in an email to The Tribune. “There are no definite plans at this time.”

Lazier added that the university has put up additional signs around the overpass, “including height indicators with flashing lights” to let drivers know about the bridge’s height restriction. Warning signs have also been installed since 2016.

Cal Poly is in charge of the road beneath the bridge, which is owned and maintained by Union Pacific. The road is at the height that it is because of nearby Brizzolara Creek, and can’t go any lower because it could flood, Scott Loosley, Cal Poly’s director of operations, told The Tribune in 2016.

After a vehicle crashes into the bridge, officials from Union Pacific come out to inspect it and make sure it’s safe to operate.

The bridge was not damaged following Wednesday night’s crash and operations resumed at about 9 p.m., according to Union Pacific spokesman Tim McMahan.

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Gabby Ferreira is a breaking news and general assignment reporter at The Tribune in San Luis Obispo. A native of Houston, Texas, she was a reporter in Tucson, Arizona; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Palm Springs, California, before moving to San Luis Obispo County in 2016.
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