Good Morning, Pierre, South Dakota. My name is Andre, I’m originally from Jacksonville, Florida. I work for a distribution company and recently visited your city while hauling product in my tractor-trailer during the recent snow storm.
I’m still in my first year of CDL driving, but I’ve lived in a lot of places from San Diego to Seattle, to Vegas, and currently Denver, Colorado.
I had been driving down from Cavendish Farms in Jamestown for about five hours, and had been driving in heavy snow for about three hours already before arriving in Pierre. As everyone knows, driving through a snowstorm is difficult and tense, so you can imagine how it must feel to drive an 80k-lb vehicle and not be able to see the lines on the road.
My mapping eventually led me to where I was driving south on N. Euclid Ave, on my way towards the now infamous Pierre Street viaduct, which I’d never heard of before Saturday.
As we approached your city, the GPS map attempts to direct us to go down Elizabeth Street, but I noticed the house on the corner, and assumed that the street was actually a neighborhood. Not wanting to wake any families, children, or pets with loud truck noise, I avoided making that turn.
As I continued down N. Euclid, I noticed the occasional “Emergency Snow Route” signs, along with several signs indicating that a highway juncture was ahead. What I did not notice, however, were any signs that indicated that I was not on the truck route, nor where the truck route would be.
At the point of Pleasant Drive is where things become particularly confusing, because I assumed the flashing yellow sign on the left pertains to vehicles turning left. Meanwhile my GPS mapping and the highway signs are telling me to turn right.
Keep in mind, I’m a bit weary from having already been driving five hours, three of which have been through and during a heavy snowstorm where I was all but blind.
My GPS mapping is telling me to turn right onto Pleasant Drive, then left onto Pierre Street. There is no stop sign, so I must keep moving, and the signs ahead are indicating strongly “Do Not Turn Right,” which can be interpreted into “turn left” by truckers. Seriously.
I’m also assuming that the highway signs across the street would not be steering me to go the wrong way, as they instruct me to turn left to get to the highway — when I’m literally trying to get to the highway.
Honestly, while completing the left turn onto Pierre Street, I looked at my GPS again at this point, attempting to verify that I was on the right course, which took away from the few seconds I would’ve needed to recognize that the signs I was at this point too close to read effectively, indicated that the clearance was 11’ 3” and not for 1 13’ foot truck, (a fatigued mind plays tricks sometimes.)
The result: One really stuck truck and another news headline about how aluminum sheet metal and insulation is no match for railroad grade steel.
I looked up some articles and discovered that this accident happens a little less than once per month. By virtue of things I’ve seen in other cities surrounding and abroad from Pierre, it is a very preventable accident.
The responding officer gave me a city citation for not following the “truck route,” as he should, however if you travel down Euclid from beyond Elizabeth you will see that there are no signs that indicate where the truck route should be or how to get there.
Simple fix: Put several “Truck Route” signs pointing left along N Euclid, which would be the first indication to your visiting driver that he or she might be in the wrong part of town to be driving a tractor/trailer.
Next, the yellow blinking sign at the end of N Euclid could instead be changed to a white sign that says boldly “All Commercial Vehicles Must Turn Left,” because we truck drivers are accustomed to the white signs on the highways telling us to enter the weigh station. Also, the highway sign on the right at the corner of Euclid and Pleasant should be a No Trucksand Trucks Must Turn Leftinstead of a highway sign indicating to turn right.
There should also be a stop sign that happens previous to the Pleasant and Pierre Street intersection; “No Right Turn” sign that also contains a “No Trucks Turning Left” sign; and a Truck Routewith an arrow pointing forward. This would help our visiting driver to understand that even after making the mistake of turning right, he or she can recover by continuing forward and not turning left.
Finally, the highway indicator signs across the street on Pleasant should be changed to “Low Clearance Warning” and “No Truck” signs. The clearance sign on the right should be moved up higher so that it’s easier to see. And, the two clearance indicators should both read “Low Clearance Warning 11’ Clearance. No Trucks Allowed Under Viaduct.”
By having repeated signs that indicate the direction of the truck route and boldly indicating “No Trucks,” and having a well-placed stop sign after the turn onto Pleasant Drive, this can allow a confused driver utilizing GPS mapping to understand the predicament that he or she is in, but also understand the way to get themselves out of the predicament while not destroying their vehicle by running into a bridge.
These things should also be done on the route coming from Sioux Avenue leading into the Pierre Street Viaduct, but I did not get stuck on that side, so I cannot really describe where exactly the repetitive signs should be placed.
I hope that someone will listen and take these prescribed steps in order to help prevent any more trucks from running into the Pierre Street Viaduct, as opposed to replacing or digging a deeper road.
Being from an old town and seeing marvelous foundational structures like the Pierre Street Viaduct makes me proud to see remnants of America’s previous generation still holding strong and providing for the life of our cities and counties.
Andre Hampton, Denver Colorado
Editor’s note: Mr. Hampton supplied many photos of the route, as well as a map, illustrating his points on current and suggested signage.