Iowa City railroad bridge sees frequent accidents, most involving rented vehicles

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - Iowa City police say a railroad bridge on W. Iowa Ave. is a common spot for crashes, despite a number of warning signs in place. Most recently, a semi truck for Sysco hit the bridge on March 29, tearing off part of the cab and the trailer.

The railroad bridge above W. Iowa Ave. in Iowa City has seen ten vehicles physically hit the bridge since 2011. More than half of them have been rental vehicles. (Aaron Scheinblum, KCRG)

The Iowa City Police Department has received frequent reports of vehicles hitting or getting stuck trying to get under the bridge. Since 2011, police records show the bridge has been hit ten times, at an average more than once per year.

The bottom of the railroad bridge has clear marks from certain crashes- even with a piece of the semi truck from two weeks ago still lodged inside the bridge.

TV9 reviewed those crashes and discovered the majority share a common trend.

"A lot of the accidents involving that railroad bridge involve rental vehicles- U-Hauls and Penske vehicles and things like that," said Sgt. Derek Frank with the Iowa City Police Department.

Of the ten crashes since 2011, six of them involved rental vehicles, representing more than half of the crashes that have physically hit the bridge.

Upon further review, many of the crashes share another bond: a handful have occurred during move-in or move-out season for students at the University of Iowa.

"Some of the reports that I read alluded to some distracted driving as well- people concentrating on their GPS because they weren't sure where they were," Sgt. Frank said.

The Iowa City Public Works Department does not have control over the bridge, therefore does not maintain it, meaning outside of the warning signs and hanging chains the city's engineering department has put in place, there is not much else they can add.

The bridge is owned and operated by CRANDIC Railway, a division of Alliant Energy. Multiple attempts were made to reach out to CRANDIC, but calls and messages were not returned.

Sgt. Frank said he remembers if the owners of the bridge see a need or have a desire to make modifications, it could potentially be a positive for safety along W. Iowa Ave.