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Trucks getting stuck

Some tractor-trailers being diverted from I-81 cause traffic turmoil

Some tractor-trailers being diverted from I-81 cause traffic turmoil

September 17, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. -- Tractor-trailers carrying oversized loads are being diverted off Interstate 81 in Franklin County, Pa., and getting stuck when they are detoured through the centers of towns like Waynesboro and Chambersburg.

Several big rigs have gotten stuck or used police escorts this week. On Thursday afternoon, a truck hauling a modular building failed to negotiate a turn from Second Street to Queen Street in Chambersburg.

Traffic was diverted around the scene for more than two hours. The truck driver, like others who experienced problems, had a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation permit outlining the route.

"PennDOT is permitting these people. ... Because of the construction on I-81, they're diverting them at Exit 10 and telling them to come up (U.S.) 11," said Walter Bietsch, a patrol division supervisor with Chambersburg Police.

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In the Borough of Chambersburg, U.S. 11 turns into Second Street. It serves as the primary route for northbound traffic.

Permits being issued tell drivers to take the alternate route or call interstate construction superintendents to arrange to get through, PennDOT spokesman Michael Crochunis said.

"The reason for the restriction is construction," he said.

Anything 10 feet wide or narrower can comfortably fit through the concrete barriers, Crochunis said. Loads that are wider but higher can cross above the barriers, he said.

"They would need to be cleared ahead of time," Crochunis said.

He promised that construction superintendents would try to accommodate oversized loads and keep them from going into communities.

"They realize it's affecting interstate commerce on the Eastern seaboard," Crochunis said.

Bietsch said Chambersburg Police Chief David Arnold was extremely frustrated that he couldn't get a PennDOT representative on the phone. Borough police encountered problems Tuesday with two trucks carrying silos and made arrangements for police escorts from U.S. 11 north to Pa. 997.

"These wide loads can't turn at this intersection," Bietsch said, while the big rig was being freed from Queen Street. The driver's permit said he should take Queen Street to I-81 Exit 16.

A truck driver who diverts from his permit risks being fined.

"This police department is going to do what we can do to get them through our borough," Bietsch said, saying officers have coordinated with Pennsylvania State Police.

Chambersburg's latest problem differs from its usual one when tractor-trailers headed west on U.S. 30 get stuck on the Memorial Square fountain, according to Bietsch.

A tractor-trailer hauling a 200,000-pound generator got stuck on Center Square in Waynesboro at noon Tuesday.

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