On his regular commute to work Monday morning, Paul Moreno was driving behind a truck on Butterfield Road, near Aurora. Suddenly a massive chunk of ice, scraped off the truck by a low overpass, crashed through his windshield. Moreno was badly disfigured: the scarring on his face is permanent, and ophthalmologists are still determining whether he will be able to see out of his left eye again.
At the time, this appeared to be a freak accident. But since the story broke earlier this week, two more drivers have reported nearly identical accidents from the same bridge, according to the suburban Daily Herald.
The bridge has a clearance of 14 feet, which is higher than legal limits, but only by six inches. In Moreno's case and one other, the low bridge sent massive accumulated piles of snow and ice hurtling off the tops of trucks and into following cars. In the third instance, the culprit was a chunk of concrete.
All the drivers survived, but all were shaken and none unharmed. One man, Tim Giometti, was driving with his infant son; he reported picking shards of glass from his son's diaper after the accident.
While it's becoming clear that this stretch of roadway is dangerous, it's unclear exactly where the responsibility for it lies. From the Daily Herald story:
[T]he question of what to do - as well as who should do it - is unclear. Canadian National Railway Co. owns the bridge, and although it is located in Winfield Township, the section of road is maintained by the Illinois Department of Transportation.
Canadian National spokesman Patrick Waldron said the signs on the bridge, also maintained by IDOT and which indicate a height of 14 feet, should be sufficient warning.
"The bridges are marked informing drivers of vertical clearance," he said. "Illinois law requires a railroad structure of less than 14'6" to be marked with a sign indicating clearance."
He said the company had not received any reports about Monday's incident and that the state does not have a minimum clearance for a railroad bridge, provided a clear marking is posted.