Thursday, January 10, 2008 - 1:21AM
Fort Hill, Oakwood, Carter - what do you call this bridge?
The West Virginia Department of Highways calls it the Fort Hill Bridge. Some Fire/EMS personnel, some news media and many locals call it the Oakwood Bridge. Other media outlets just say it's the bridge on I-64 at the Oakwood Road interchange or the Fort Hill interchange. And if that wasn't enough, signs at either end of the bridge call it the Eugene A. Carter Memorial Bridge.
The bridge and interchange has been around since 1975 when the Interstate 64 route into Charleston was completed, and you would think that such a large, prominent bridge on Charleston's main thoroughfare in the middle of town would have a name settled on by now. The South Side Bridge, the New River Gorge Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Chesapeake Bay-Bridge Tunnel aren't referred to by five different names - so why doesn't this bridge have an 'official' name yet?
When I've witnessed accidents at this bridge and called 911, the dispatchers often don't even know where I'm taking about when I say 'Oakwood Bridge'. I usually have to describe the location in detail, saying 'it's the big blue bridge downtown with the sharp curve that carries I-64 over the Kanawha River' before they understand where to send the first responders! (listen to audio clip below)
The Fort Hill name comes from the neighborhood on top of the mountain overlooking the bridge. The Oakwood name comes from the road at which the original entrance and exit ramps led to, and from which the highway exit signs are currently labeled. The Eugene A. Carter name comes from this resolution put forth during the 2005 session of the West Virginia Legislature:
Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 17--Requesting the Division of Highways name the I-64 bridge in Charleston, known as the Fort Hill Bridge, crossing the Kanawha River, the "Eugene A. Carter Bridge".
Where is the poll?Thanks to everyone who voted in the recent poll - it was certainly the biggest response to a single article on this blog's history! Before this morning (Wednesday), out of a total of 98 responses, the Oakwood name had 61% of the vote, with the Fort Hill name at 28%, and the Carter name at 11%. This morning and today, the poll suddenly received a flurry of 114 consecutive votes - all in support of the Carter name. This sudden, overwhelming response tipped the scales in favor of the Eugene A. Carter name with 52% of the total vote by 8:30PM tonight. However, the surge in response in favor of the Carter name appeared to come from an organized group effort and not from a random selection of Charlestonians. While it was great to see the response to the issue and the passionate support of the Carter name, it didn't end up making for a fair poll result.
Going to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh to do a poll on who America's favorite football team is will get you a lot of votes, but probably give you a less-than-stellar snapshot on what the rest of the country thinks. Likewise, the poll on the Carter/Fort Hill/Oakwood bridge became a vehicle for a special interest to overwhelm the results - which swung the tally in the opposite direction, but most likely not by getting a true sampling of the opinion of Charlestonians. While I appreciate the responses to the poll, it has reached the end of its ability to convey an accurate reflection of what the average Kanawha Valley resident thinks that the Carter/Fort Hill/Oakwood bridge is called. Therefore I've taken it down temporarily.
Unfortunately I think the intention of this article was misunderstood as a criticism on the bridge's Carter name, which invoked the response responsible for skewing the poll results. For that I apologize - and I'll reiterate again that this blog does not seek to change the bridge's name nor does it have any clout with the state of West Virginia to do so. I will most likely bring the poll back once I figure a way to word it so it won't seem threatening to the status of the bridge's official name, thereby avoiding the one-sided response it did before.
Where are the comments?As I have said repeatedly, this article does not seek to revoke or change the Eugene A. Carter name of the former Fort Hill Bridge. Since the trend in recent comments suggests that my efforts to make this clarification either haven't been noticed or have been ignored, I decided to temporarily disable comments for this article. The previously posted comments to this page can be found here.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007 - 6:18PM
911 calls from Monday's accident
The WV Metro News site has audio recordings of some of the 911 calls received on Monday morning after an 18-wheeler lost control and fell off of the Fort Hill (Oakwood) Bridge.
Monday, December 10, 2007 - 11:45PM
Aftermath images: December 10 accident at Fort Hill Bridge
Here are some photos of the aftermath and salvage operations of today's crash. The drop from the bridge deck to the river is at least 90 feet. According to the latest news reports, tragically the driver of the truck did not survive. The passenger is still in the hospital.
Monday, December 10, 2007 - 12:26PM
Tractor-trailer falls off Fort Hill Bridge, lands in river
An eastbound tractor-trailer lost control on the curve at the Fort Hill (Oakwood) Bridge this morning, going over the side of the bridge and plunging into the Kanawha River below. The passenger apparently survived the accident, but no word yet on the condition of the driver. The bridge is damaged and may have to be closed for repairs. This is the second time this year that a vehicle has fallen off of the bridge after losing control on the curve.
Saturday, December 1, 2007 - 3:10PM
Oakwood/Fort Hill Bridge update
On Friday, I received a letter from West Virginia Secretary of Transportation/State Highway Commissioner Paul A. Mattox, Jr. regarding the Fort Hill (Oakwood) bridge on I-64 in Charleston. In the letter, the Commissioner said the DOH is installing an experimental pavement overlay on another high-accident bridge on I-79. This overlay is designed to add skid resistance to the road surface and the retention of de-icing substances applied in the wintertime. If this overlay is deemed successful, it will be installed on other bridges in the area, including the Oakwood/Fort Hill Bridge.
According to the DOH web site, the state's official designation of the bridge at the Oakwood interchange is the 'Fort Hill Bridge', named after the hill and overlook above the highway. Although local media reports have long referred to the bridge as the 'Oakwood' bridge (due to the exit ramps at the bridge being labeled for Oakwood Road), I decided in the name of accuracy to change all of the material on this site to refer to the bridge's official state-given name.
Friday, November 23, 2007 - 6:02PM
Thanksgiving Oakwood rollover
LINK: Daily Mail article
Another rollover crash at Oakwood during heavy Thanksgiving traffic. I expected there to be problems with the large amount of out-of-state drivers unfamiliar with the curve.
Friday, November 16, 2007 - 7:12PM
I received a letter today from Senator Robert C. Byrd stating that he would be contacting the State Highway Commissioner on my behalf about the conditions at the Fort Hill Bridge. I'll keep any updates posted here!
Monday, November 12, 2007 - 3:18PM
Another Oakwood pileup in the news
This time on the curve's westbound lanes during rain this morning. Four vehicles, including two police cars. This is in the exact location of an accident I captured on camera back on October 27, 2003, nearly the same time of day in identical conditions. It seems I am going to have to start going up there every time it rains now.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007 - 9:24AM
Pickup falls off rain-slickened Fort Hill Bridge
A pickup truck with two occupants lost control on the Fort Hill Bridge in Charleston last Thursday, jumped the guardrail, and fell 50 feet to the ground.
Apparently this accident occured off of one of the ramps leading up to the interstate. It's only a matter of time before this same thing happens during an icing episode in the winter.
Saturday, October 27, 2007 - 9:17PM
The case for de-icers on I-64's Fort Hill Bridge
With winter weather quickly closing in on us, I thought it was a good time to start an initiative to remind drivers about the dangers of icy bridges. I put together a video on the Fort Hill Bridge (on I-64 in Charleston) and sent it to the Department of Highways, Senator Robert C. Byrd and Congresswoman Shelly Moore Capito in the hopes that a de-icing system will be considered for this and other high-risk, accident-prone locations. You can view the video on the following web page:
Please pass this link on to your friends and family!
Monday, March 19, 2007 - 10:42PM
Prevention role in icy road situations
Ever since I started covering winter weather and icy road stories, I have always anticipated being asked the question "Why didn't you do something to prevent these accidents instead of just continuing to shoot video?"
When I shoot at the I-64 bridge location in downtown Charleston, as soon as the first car slides, I call 911 to advise the authorities that the bridge is getting bad (which is usually right when I arrive and set up). Most of the time it takes 10 to 20 minutes or more for the police to show up. Even if they do arrive, they will only shut the highway down if there is a disabled vehicle in the road. I've never seen them show up without a disabled vehicle, even if spinouts are happening.
I still make the call, even though it is already known by police and the DOH what the road conditions are (numerous bridges all over town get icy at the same time), and that this curve is bad whenever there is freezing precip. Only one out of every four or five winter precip events that cover the bridge in ice/snow result in spinouts/crashes (most drivers around here are cautious in snow and ice), so calling every time would result in the 'crying wolf' syndrome. Furthermore, the police don't respond to the scene unless accidents are already happening.
In other words, the last thing I want to do is watch someone get hurt or total their car. I do take action where I can, which is calling 911 when the conditions warrant. There have been instances with other bridges, when it is safe to do so, where I have parked my vehicle ahead of the danger zone and turned on my strobes to warn traffic (one of the very few times I actually use my lights - a topic for another thread). If I happen to be in a situation where I can prevent an accident, this takes priority over shooting video - even if it means going home empty-handed. Case in point, I prevented a large number of potential accidents during an ice storm in Hickory, NC (a 6-hour drive away and a 48-hour expedition) by warning all cars that were approaching a very slick bridge over I-40. Most cars were oblivious and traveling at high rates of speed and slowed when they saw my flashing lights. I came home with little video from that expedition, but the feeling of satisfaction from preventing almost certain accidents was worth it.
In most cases, particularly at the Charleston I-64 bridge, it would be extremely dangerous to park on the shoulder of the highway to warn traffic. It could even make the situation worse, causing accidents rather than preventing them. Calling 911 at the first sign of trouble is really the only option I have at the I-64 bridge location.
Saturday, March 17, 2007 - 4:45PM
Troublesome / tragic day on I-64 at Oakwood
What an insane day. I finally found a news article about the bad crash on I-64 early this morning here. As I suspected, it was not an ice-related accident, but rather a head-on crash caused by a driver traveling the wrong way on the interstate. Tragically the young woman, driving the east in the westbound lanes in the small car, was killed. The driver of the pickup survived, but with injuries.
Fast forward to three hours later. The snowfall rates picked up around 6AM, and by 6:30, the bridges and overpasses in the area were covered with snow and ice. I went back to Fort Hill to set up again. On the way, I tested the slickness of the bridge again by tapping my brakes. My wheels slid easily, and I knew this was going to mean trouble. When I arrived on Fort Hill a minute later, a man parked at the overlook said that he had already watched five cars spin out or crash. I quickly set up my camera and caught another six spinouts/crashes (missing another two). Traffic was heavy and moving fast, and the accidents were happening again and again in rapid succession. At one point, three vehicles spun out and crashed into the inside barrier in a row. Close calls were insane, with tractor-trailers barely missing the spinning cars. At one point, an out-of-control SUV barely missed the three other wrecked cars and a police car. Thankfully, no one was hurt in any of the crashes.
Counting the five incidents I missed before I set up, the two I missed while taping, and the six I caught, that's 13 accidents in less than 30 minutes on the I-64 Fort Hill Bridge on Saturday. Add the 4-6 vehicles involved in the earlier head-on accident, that's 17 to 19 vehicles involved in wrecks on the bridge in less than three and a half hours. By far the worst conditions I have ever witnessed at the bridge and the most accidents I'd seen and caught on tape at one spot in the past 4 years.
Video and screen captures are here.
Saturday, March 17, 2007 - 5:41AM
Snow watching and I-64 accident
I just finished an all-nighter watching for snow, but didn't record a single frame of video. The snow was too light to cover anything but cars and rooftops. Bridges and overpasses got a slight dusting, but not enough to cause problems in all but a few isolated spots. I drove around testing bridges for slickness, and only the least-traveled ones on secondary roads were slick.
Around 3AM, I sat for about 25 minutes on Fort Hill, keeping an eye on the infamous curve on the I-64 bridge at the Oakwood interchange. The snow had not affected the bridge yet (I had driven across it minutes earlier). The snow was light enough and traffic was keeping the bridge deck warm enough in the borderline 31F temperatures that icing was not occuring. After the snow subsided and the bridge remained ice-free, I eventually decided to return home to monitor the conditions. When I made it down the hill and back onto the interstate, I saw that a major multi-car accident had occured on the bridge in the one minute time span since I left Fort Hill! I missed witnessing it by less than a minute.
The bridge deck was not icy, so I was puzzled as to what happened. I drove back up to Fort Hill to get a better view. There was small car and a pickup truck both with extreme front-end damage, side-by-side and both pointing north (perpendicular to the road) in the middle westbound lane. Behind that, there were four other cars in a line, two visibly in contact after a rear-end collision with no visible damage. These four vehicles were apparently trying to stop in time to avoid hitting the first two vehicles lying in the middle of the road. The westbound lanes were shut down with a massive police, fire and EMS presence. At least two people were removed from the first two vehicles and taken via stretcher to waiting ambulances.
Since I had confirmed the lack of ice on the bridge (I originally left my filming spot because of it), that cause was ruled out. The resting positions of the first two vehicles and the severety of damage to both front ends was indicitave of a head-on collision, which meant that one of them had likely been driving the wrong way - possibly due to the driver being intoxicated. I checked all of the local news sources this morning, and as of yet no one has reported anything.
Featured Weather Library Article:
Web Site Design and Internet Marketing by CIS Internet