ECTOR COUNTY, TX (KWES) - Accidents involving vehicles or oversize loads hitting bridges are a common occurrence and "easily preventable nuisance" on Midland-Odessa roads, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) officials said Wednesday.
The majority of incidents involve "careless" truckers hauling improperly loaded equipment and smashing into overpasses, highway officials said, weakening support beams and draining taxpayer dollars.
A bridge expert from Austin spent the afternoon inspecting the Crane Avenue overpass at Interstate 20 after it was struck last Wednesday by an 18-wheeler with an excavator, according TxDOT spokesman Gene Powell.
The accident marked the fifth time the overpass had been struck in five years, he said, and the second time this month.
"Here's the definition of 'irony'," Powell said. "The day it got hit the second time was the day we got plans from Austin on how to repair the first hit."
Both crashes this month at the Crane Avenue overpass involved trucks hauling excavators with arms raised higher than permitted, accident reports revealed.
The structure has a clearance height greater than 16 feet and meets all federal and state guidelines, officials confirmed.
"Either you're over-sized and you didn't get a permit, you got a permit and didn't follow your permitted route or you loaded your load incorrectly," Powell explained. "It's one of those three things. These bridges aren't moving. They're not jumping out in front of people."
TxDOT officials are discussing a range of options, he said, including increasing clearance by raising the Crane Avenue overpass and lowering the road beneath the structure.
However, increasing clearance would require adjusting ramps leading to the overpass, engineers explained, and may affect the Monahans Draw bridge east of Crane Avenue.
Lowering the road could result in drainage issues and negatively impact bridge support.
The Crane Avenue overpass was previously raised six inches in 2014 as part of a $7.5 million, multi-location project.
"Everything is still on the table right now," Powell said. "We have a lot to discuss, but nothing happens in a vacuum. Any option has huge ripple effects."