Cement k-rails toppled over the bridge and guard rail was compressed when a large truck got stuck on the Laughlin Bridge Aug. 20. (Photos courtesy of Sonoma County)

Every few months a truck gets stuck on the one-lane Laughlin Road bridge south of Airport Blvd., doing damage to the bridge and, in May, spilling diesel fuel. The most recent incident was Aug. 20, with the road closed all morning while the unfortunate trucker and his rig were extricated. (Thanks to Janine Crocker for photos of the aftermath.)

Shortly after that, Mandy wrote with this question: “The Laughlin one lane bridge constantly has vehicles too large to pass blocking it, causing a backup and damaging the guardrail. The County says they are tired of fixing it. What is stopping them from prohibiting vehicles of a certain width and or length? And posting such?? My back road beautiful 10 minute commute has been increased to 20 with the closure of Airport Blvd and even more with these truck drivers that think they can fit over the bridge.”

One more guard rail bites the dust.

Warnings are posted, and the bridge is restricted, says Tom O’Kane, deputy director of the county’s Department of Transportation and Public Works, but even that doesn’t stop truck drivers looking for a short cut between Airport Blvd. and River Road. Once they’ve made the choice they’re committed, but most don’t make that mistake a second time.

Truckers who get stuck on the bridge are ticketed and fined, in addition to being billed for the damage they cause. O’Kane says residents regularly send him photos of trucks in distress, and he calls the companies to explain the consequences.

“I advise them that one of the recent crashes cost the owner of the truck about $50,000 in clean up and damages to public property, not to mention the truck repairs,” he says. “That did seem to get their attention. CHP handles all the tickets (and) fines.”

The county installed cement “K” rails along the one-lane blind curve after doing three major guardrail repairs in one month, fixing damage caused by truckers who ignored the warning signs leading into the area. “It was a last resort to make it more obvious that trucks can’t go this direction, but they do anyway,” O’Kane says.

The county has plans to replace the Laughlin bridge, perhaps by 2015, when it extends Brickway Blvd. south from Airport Blvd. to River Road, building a new bridge across Mark West Creek. Read more about those plans HERE.


Send your questions to the Road Warrior at Linda.Castrone@pressdemocrat.com.