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Scott Engle was at the scene from minutes after the load shifted until the bridge reopened Thursday afternoon.
These are his notes:
A little after 1am Conroe Police responded to a call at FM3083 and IH45 regarding a stuck 18 wheeler. When they arrived they found a 64 wheel truck loaded with a 200,000 ton heat exchanger. The driver had picked this up at Jacinto Port on the Houston ship channel and was delivering it to Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
TXDOT provided the routing for this truck which would take him up to the Oklahoma line where he would get the next part of his route. He left Jacinto port several nights before. His permit required him to only travel after 9 pm, with an escort, so they stopped in Cleveland and Splendora on nights before.
Wednesday night they left Splendora heading to Hempstead, their next overnight stop. His routing called for FM 2090 to FM 3083 to Hwy 105 West. From there he was to continue to Montgomery, south on FM 149 to Magnolia and west on FM 14888 to Hempstead.
Since the unit was 18 feet high, which is more than two feet higher than most bridges, he had to move slowly. A bucket truck led the way raising power lines and obstructions on the route. As they crossed the FM 3083 bridge over IH45 the driver had to maneuver around the fixed traffic lights. As he did so, a sheer pin on the back part of the trailer failed separating the trailer from the load.
A company out of Houston was contacted and responded with two cranes. The first to place a pad on the freeway shoulder below to put the larger crane on. The larger 500,000 pound crane which is capable of lifting one million pounds was then put in position. This was a very slow procedure.
Along with this crane came three 18-wheelers loaded with counter weights ranging from five to fifteen tons. Theses had to be assembled on the crane before it could start its lift. TXDOT officials responded early on and called in the original TXDOT designer of the bridge to determine the safest way to clear the road. He determined the crane should try from below. The bridge is designed for large weights but weights spread around area. With the crane lifting the heat exchanger he would have had to set outriggers which basically support the crane from tipping. These outriggers however are approximately four feet by four feet therefore the crane weight and lifter weight would have been concentrated just in that small area.
The bridge is designed with several beams and a concrete overlay and is not designed to handle that much weight between those beams. Around noon they were ready to start the lift and DPS at the request of TXDOT closed the southbound lanes of IH45 just in case the unit fell and may have broken some concrete through. After only thirty minutes the load was leveled, freeway opened and work started to repair the trailer. At 330pm TXDOT allowed the truck to start its journey again during daylight hours to a safe location until nightfall. That location was Brookshire Brothers grocery store in Montgomery. Friday morning at 1:30 a.m. the truck will once again continue its 2200 mile journey to Canada. Construction Cargo officials who own the truck said they will eventually meet highway 287 in the panhandle which continues all the way to Calgary. The overpass was back open for traffic by Thursday evening.
The company is contracted to haul thirty more of theses units in the near future.