After an investigation, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has stated that the Monitor Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel withstood the impact of a tractor-trailer accident that took place last month and that the bridge successfully prevented a more serious accident from taking place.
The Virginia truck accident took place on Monday, April 8, 2013, when 43-year-old truck driver Almira Ribic was traveling along the southbound lanes of the road and lost control of her vehicle. The tractor-trailer slammed into the left side of the bridge, and the cab of the vehicle dangled from the side of the structure and over the James River below. Emergency response teams from local fire departments, police departments, and the Coast Guard successfully extracted the driver without injury, though traffic on the bridge was backed up for several hours.
VDOT inspected the bridge for an estimated six hours through a number of different tests. The tests, some of which were conducted from a boat in the water below, found that the bridge was still structurally sound—and that it did its job in preventing the truck from entering the water.
One safety inspector explained that the concrete barricade was certainly strong enough to stop a smaller vehicle from driving off of the bridge and that breaking the barricade would necessitate a hard, direct hit from a large vehicle.
The Virginia State Police reported that the truck accident was still under investigation and that the exact cause of the accident is not currently known. However, a spokesperson from the state police stated that driving conditions on the bridge are different from that on the road due to conditions like wind.
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