Traffic Alert: Avoid Gulf to Bay at US 19

Clearwater, Florida - It was a close call for two truck drivers in Clearwater on Tuesday afternoon. Their tractor trailers hit the overpass at US 19 and Gulf to Bay Boulevard, shutting down roads in all directions.

"It was scary, very scary," says Karma Baijnauth, who was driving the second truck that hit the overpass. "I heard a noise, that's it," says Baijnauth.

Baijnauth has been driving his truck for nine years, but he's never been in more fear for his life then he was on Tuesday.

110-ton girder hanging over intersection

After going under US 19 on Gulf to Bay around 1:00, he says the truck in front of him hit the overpass first, and he was next.

"I cross here almost every day and all of a sudden, I heard the tractor trailer drag, and I stopped over here and he ripped his hole top off and I ripped mine off too," says Baijnauth.

Baijnauth says his truck didn't get any taller and the Clearwater Fire Department could not confirm whether or not the old overpass on US 19 has started to sag.

The overpass was actually scheduled to come down next week, "But at this point in time, we're looking at taking all of girders down now," says the Asst. Fire Chief with the City of Clearwater.

For Baijnauth, he says he's happy it's only his truck that got damaged and hopes that things can get back to normal as soon as possible.

Contractors say it could take 48 hours until the girders are removed and the intersection is re-opened.

Earlier report:

Clearwater, Florida -- Gulf to Bay Boulevard (SR 60) is expected to be shut down at US 19 for the next 24-48 hours after an overpass was damaged by a tractor trailer on Tuesday afternoon.

The top of the tractor trailer struck the old US 19 bridge as it drove underneath it. There is at least one steel girder, estimated to weigh 70 tons, that is now hanging from the bridge.

Engineers and construction staff determined that all four of the overpass' girders will need to be removed, which will take up to 24 to 48 hours. Motorists are advised to avoid the area and to expect major delays.

The Florida Department of Transportation says traffic detours include westbound traffic heading north to Drew Street using the frontage road and then back to SR 60, and eastbound traffic heading south to use Belleair and then back onto SR 60.

US 19 was briefly shut down Tuesday, but is now open to all traffic. The old, damaged overpass is slated to eventually be demolished, and traffic on US 19 currently uses a new overpass beside it, which was not damaged in the accident.

The driver of the tractor trailer was unhurt.


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