For the third time in recent history, and the second time since the bridge re-opened last week in Long Grove, the one-lane covered bridge over Buffalo Creek was damaged by careless drivers. The original one-lane bridge was built in 1906. The first bridge cover was added in 1972 to help preserve it from the elements and prevent heavy, oversize vehicles from crossing the bridge. The new 2020 cover is constructed with a steel skeleton, which can be observed by a pedestrian looking overhead.
The bridge on Robert Parker Coffin Road, which is the southwest exit and entrance to downtown Long Grove, was damaged by a school bus Saturday August 15, 2020, and a box truck Wednesday, August 19, 2020. Drivers of both vehicles drove through the covered bridge, ignoring warning signs of an 8’6” height limit, and ignoring warning signs to turn away.
The historic covered bridge was reopened last week after it was rebuilt over a period of two years, after a box truck crashed through the covered bridge and caused structural damage in June 2018.
The first crash after the re-opening in 2020 involved a rented school bus transporting adult golfers. The school bus crashed into the bridge less than 23 hours after Long Grove held a grand re-opening ceremony for the bridge.
Wendy Guzman, 42, of Chicago, driver of the school bus Saturday, was charged with disobeying a posted traffic sign and exceeding the height restriction on a covered bridge. Arturo Ferreira, 29, of Chicago, who drove the box truck Wednesday, was also charged with disobeying a posted traffic sign and exceeding the height restriction on a covered bridge. Guzman was also charged with exceeding a 5-ton weight limit on the road. Both drivers, due in court October 7, 2020 in Lake County branch court, could face fines of more than $1,000.
In both crashes, damage occurred to planks of wood, and is estimated at less than $10,000 and a couple of days work to repair. The scene smells of fresh wood, either from the fresh construction or the freshly splintered planks of wood that were damaged.
Pedestrians near the bridge were astonished, but not surprised, at the stupidity of drivers. Many were also critical of village leaders and planners, who they say, didn’t design with caution to protect the covered bridge from today’s careless drivers. One observer said even McDonald’s has an overhead bumper to warn drivers of tall vehicles so they don’t drive into their drive-thru lanes and damage or destroy their drive-thru shelter. Another suggestion was a sensor that would activate strobe lights and illuminate warning signs if a tall vehicle approaches the bridge.
There are signs warning about the height restriction, and there is a sign warning “no trucks” and the prohibitive 5-ton limit. Truck drivers approaching the bridge from either side are warned to turn away to avoid crossing the bridge. Violators are subject to a $500 fine. The Speed Limit along Robert Parker Coffin Road is 25 MPH.
Approaching from the southwest and in front of Long Grove Community Church there is a warning sign alert regarding the 8’6” limit that is 500 feet ahead, but the sign is located where there is a crest in the road, and where drivers are likely preoccupied with watching cautiously for oncoming traffic that is not yet visible beyond the crest in the road.
Approaching from the northeast, the sign warning “No Trucks Beyond This Point” is located on the left side of the road — not on both sides of Robert Parker Coffin Road, or not on the right side of the road where the sign(s) should be located. The “No Trucks Beyond This Point” on the left side of Robert Parker Coffin Road is positioned like an information sign for the driveway to the Stempel Municipal Parking Lot parking lot — easily ignored by a driver that is not concerned with turning left into the parking lot.
The street signs are definitely a disorganized mess. The signs are a vague mix of warning and informational or directional signs that are often misplaced.
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