13 times in 6 months: What will stop truck drivers from hitting Long Grove's bridge cover?
The crunch of wayward trucks crashing into the historic covered bridge in downtown Long Grove has become so familiar that the question is when -- not if -- it will happen again.
So it was Monday afternoon, when the body of a box truck was smooshed after hitting the steel framing installed to protect the bridge covering.
Shopkeepers outside making a snow fort for an upcoming weekend festival yelled for the driver to stop. But the warning, like numerous other lights and signs, went unheeded.
The ensuing collision was the 13th since the bridge regarded as a gateway to downtown reopened in August.
That sounds bad, but village officials say the damage to the local landmark and tourist attraction has been minor and cosmetic, not structural.
"It's designed to protect the cover and the bridge, and it's working," Village President Bill Jacob said.
That it continues to happen, however, has become more a frustrating annoyance than a situation requiring emergency action. What can be done?
"We have a lot of creative ideas people have provided us. At some point we'll see what the (village) board wants to do," Jacob said.
Social media commenters offered a range of ideas, from requiring vision or IQ tests for drivers to removing the bridge covering, or even installing a toll booth.
Several suggested that a clearance beam before the bridge opening, like those at drive-through lanes of fast food restaurants, might do the trick.
"Taco Bell has figured this out," one commenter said.
In one sense, the frequency of crashes is puzzling, as there are numerous fluorescent signs alerting drivers of the height restriction and other signs regarding the bridge weight limit.
"Many drivers see and heed the warning, while those who've struck the bridge have either not paid attention to the signage or didn't realize it applied to them," Lake County sheriff's Lt. Chris Covelli said.
The village also has designated Robert Coffin Road a route for local traffic only, Jacob said, and is working to get it removed from driver navigation systems.
"It's crazy why this keeps happening. There's plenty of signage. We don't quite understand," said Jasmine Searcy, office manager of the Long Grove Visitors Center, which represents downtown merchants.
The 114-year-old truss bridge, placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2018, is loved by residents and merchants and synonymous with the village.
"The bridge means everything to the businesses, the locals and to people who travel from miles and miles away to see it," Searcy said.
Severely damaged in June 2018 by a box truck, the bridge reopened Aug. 14, 2020, after two years of costly repairs. Within a week of a reopening celebration that drew village officials, business owners and residents, vehicles hit it twice more.
"We don't want this to continue to happen, but I don't know a solution," said John Barry, proprietor of The Irish Boutique.
Searcy and others say the village has been responsive.
"Everything we've suggested has been done," said Jeffery Taylor, owner of Ma & Pa's Candy. He recorded a video of the crash Monday that received thousands of views on Facebook.
Why not remove the covering?
"That's not something I see happening. It's part of our downtown," Jacob said.
"It's an ongoing effort to keep doing what we can," he said. "The good news is the redesign is doing its job."