Bean-Carrying Truck Overloads And Collapses Historic 113-Year-Old Bridge

Published July 25, 2019

The Northwood Bridge spanned 56 feet over North Dakota’s Goose River — until Monday afternoon, when a 42-ton semi truck barreled over it.

Northwood Bridge Truck

Grand Forks County Sheriffs OfficeThe truck’s owner, Shane C. Olson, said he’s forgiven driver Michael Dodds and won’t be firing him for the accident.

North Dakota’s Northwood Bridge spanned 56 feet over the Goose River. The wood-plank bridge was built in 1906 for $2,450 by the Fargo Bridge and Iron Co., and has since won its rightful place on the National Register of Historic Places. Unfortunately, a 42-ton semitrailer truck just broke it — big time.

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, a trucker carrying a hefty load of beans merely adhered to his GPS’s directions on Monday. The cargo load of dried navy beans, in addition to the vehicle’s overall weight, unfortunately, was too much to bear for the 113-year-old bridge.

Shane C. Olson, who owns the vehicle, said driver Michael Dodds “had no good reason to have been on that road.”

He added that Dodds wasn’t familiar with the area, which suggests he simply didn’t know about the Northwood Bridge’s cultural value or its fragile, weight-restrictive nature.

Northwood Bridge Collapse

Grand Forks County Sheriffs OfficeThe 113-year-old bridge was on the National Register of Historic Places. Repairs, if the county agrees to them, could cost as much as $1 million.

Dodds is a born Minnesotan from Red Lake Falls, who simply entered his destination of Jamestown, North Dakota into his GPS “and followed that to a fault,” according to Olson. “He’s never been on that road before.”

Repairing the bridge could cost as much as $1 million. As for Dodds, his empathetic boss said he’s forgiven his driver and won’t fire him for making a mistake. The Sheriff’s Office did confirm, however, that a 14-ton weight limit warning was definitely displayed on the bridge.

“Structures like the Northwood Bridge are more than just quaint relics; they’re among the most important remaining historic landmarks from North Dakota’s homestead area,” said historian Mark Hufstetler, who made the National Registry of Historic Places nomination.

“The bridges are also marvels of engineering — intricate and lightweight structures that have endured for more than a century with very little maintenance.”

Unfortunately, Hufstetler explained that the number of historic truss bridges like the Northwood Bridge has been shrinking over the years. It seems the primary reason is indeed careless drivers such as Dodds who simply have no idea what kind of span they’re traversing.

“This is far from the first time a negligent driver of an overweight vehicle has destroyed an old truss bridge,” he said. “It seems really unconscionable that someone would risk both their personal property and their community’s heritage in this way, just for the sake of saving a few minutes of travel time.”

Truck On Northwood Bridge

National Register of Historic PlacesThe truck owner said it wasn’t the weight that caused the collapse, but rather an abutment from the bridge getting stuck to the truck’s trailer.

Olson contended that even though the truck was heavier “than what the bridge was weighted for,” in his view, the real reason for the collapse was that Dodds didn’t enter straight onto the bridge and thus “rubbed the side of the trailer against the structure of the bridge.”

Local Sheriff Andy Schneider seems to think that the trucking company is trying to avoid culpability. “It sounds like something he’s hoping to believe to be true,” he said.

Northwood Bridge Accident Site

National Register of Historic PlacesIt’s not guaranteed that the historic landmark will get repaired or replaced yet.

Ultimately, 58-year-old Dodds was handed an $11,400 overload citation for the incident. The county-owned bridge is currently debating repairs, with the cost likely to fall somewhere between the $800,000 and $1 million mark. Olson said that, should he be found financially responsible for the fiasco, his insurance would cover the costs.

The Northwood isn’t the only bridge in need of repair. Nearly 11 percent of bridges in North Dakota are structurally deficient — as are 23 percent in Rhode Island, 20 percent in West Virginia, and many more. But the government has been slower and slower in fixing them.

According to an April report from the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, even New York’s Brooklyn Bridge and San Francisco’s Mateo-Hayward Bridge are officially deficient. It’ll take an estimated 80 years to repair every bridge in the nation that needs fixing.

As for the Northwood Bridge incident, it’s certainly a shame that this historic landmark was irrevocably damaged. Fortunately, however, nobody involved was hurt, and the repairs being considered would prop it back up for good. In the end, this renewed attention might actually allow it to last even longer than 113 years.

After reading about the heavy bean-hauling truck causing a historic 113-year-old bridge to collapse, learn about the Brinks truck that spilled cash all over an Indiana highway and watch people react exactly as you’d think they would. Then, read about the woman who fell off a bridge while taking a selfie.

Marco Margaritoff
A former staff writer for All That’s Interesting, Marco Margaritoff holds dual Bachelor's degrees from Pace University and a Master's in journalism from New York University. He has published work at People, VICE, Complex, and serves as a staff reporter at HuffPost.
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Margaritoff, Marco. "Bean-Carrying Truck Overloads And Collapses Historic 113-Year-Old Bridge.", July 25, 2019, Accessed June 21, 2024.