U.S. NEWS

North Carolina’s Infamous ‘Can Opener’ Bridge May Decapitate Trucks No Longer

An 11-foot-8-inch railroad overpass in Durham is being raised after years of viral videos showing it lopping off the tops of vehicles.

A notorious North Carolina landmark dubbed the “can opener” bridge may soon become just a regular old overpass.

Transportation officials in Durham announced plans Friday to raise the 11-foot-8-inch railroad bridge that has been documented peeling off the tops of trucks and other tall vehicles in dozens of viral videos ― and even a documentary.

Construction on the North Carolina Railroad Co. bridge, which crosses South Gregson Street near the city’s downtown, is scheduled from Oct. 23 to Nov. 5, according to Bill Judge, Durham’s interim transportation director.

Railroad records show that the new clearance height will be 12 feet, 4 inches ― only 8 inches taller ― “for the purpose of improving safety and reducing damage to NCRR infrastructure from vehicle strikes.”

Judge believes 8 inches is “the most they can raise it” without having to reconstruct another nearby crossing, but referred HuffPost to the railroad for details.

Jim Kessler, NCRR’s vice president of engineering, said in an email Monday that the additional 8 inches “will maximize the increased clearance without affecting the grade of adjoining track on each side of the bridge.” The railroad is paying the full cost of the $500,000 project, Kessler added.

The famous overpass has been a hazard to drivers for years, leading to 101 accidents between 2008 and 2016, according to an NBC News report. For more recent figures, Judge referred HuffPost to the website 11foot8.com, which documented 33 collisions since the beginning of 2017 ― or roughly one per month.

North Carolina law allows commercial vehicles with heights of up to 13 feet, 6 inches, so despite numerous signs and a laser-triggered signal that gives drivers a final warning, the trestle has acquired a reputation as a truck guillotine. It’s spawned a YouTube channel that’s racked up millions of views since 2008, a Twitter account (tagline: “Laying in wait at Gregson and Pettigrew”), an Atlas Obscura entry and plenty of news coverage.

Jurgen Henn, who runs the YouTube channel and the 11foot8.com website, keeps cameras set up near the intersection, according to his site. He started recording the underpass in 2008 after hearing the crashes from his nearby office for years, Henn has told multiple news outlets.

Henn did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

While it’s good news for motorists and pedestrians that the bridge will finally be a safer height, many locals and other fans of mayhem are mourning the “end of an era.” 

This story has been updated with comment from the North Carolina Railroad Co.

CONVERSATIONS