Dec. 23, 1961
Highway 101 Overpass Wrecked Near S.L.O.
Insufficient clearance, that’s what did it, the California highway patrol keenly observed today.
The statement was extremely precise and obvious, looking at the wreckage this morning of the Los Osos interchange being built over highway 101 about a mile south of San Luis Obispo.
A big rig hauling a load of hay from Tulare was estimated one foot higher than the limit of 14 feet clearly posted in large letters on the overhead structure.
The impact knocked down at least 20 tons of steel beam, the supporting timbers,and the steel reinforcement being strung across the bridge in preparation for pouring concrete.
The construction of the $400,000 interchange, which is intended to provide an easier access into the Los Osos valley, the south bay costal area and toward Morro Bay will be delayed at least two weeks by today’s costly accident.
At the scene this morning to direct clearing away debris and the heavy steel girders were Charles and Elmer Walter, who form the firm of Walter Bros.
Also present was Ted Watkin, another San Luis Obispo contractor associated with the Walter Bros. as a subcontractor of steel and concrete work, and the job superintendent for Watkins, Robert Swinden.
Swinden said that at least four big trucking rigs had brushed the superstructure, leaving marks on timbers overhead.
He pointed out specifically a truck with a cargo of insulation materials, another bearing boxes and a third was an oil rig outfit.
The truck driver, Larry Newsome, 21, Tulare, who left hay strewn for a considerable distance down the highway, was delayed several hours to adjust his load, and was able to salvage quite a bit of it.
It appeared also obvious as he left the scene and continued southward that his load will now meet the legal overhead requirements as he meets bridges he’ll pass under along the rest of his journey.
The only bright note encountered a the scene this morning as the Christmas eve neared in the households of the Walter Bros, and the Ted Watkins Construction Co.—the loss was fully insured.
No exact financial loss could be ascertained at once, Watkins said, pending a study of expended labor and the possibility of salvage of a few timbers — plus the inconvenience of cleaning up the mess.
The investigating officer for the CHP, LaRue McIlwain, said that the truck had not encountered any weight or measurement stations on its way here from Tulare, but his own measurements showed the load far in excess of proper clearance.
McIlwain said the rear trailer that did all the damage was stacked seven bales high, bu it was seasoned and dry hay, choice fodder for the Santa Maria horses where it was destined.
The truck driver just did a horseback estimate of his cargo’s height, McIlwain said, saying that he’d hauled seven bales straight up before and no bridges had toppled down and was at a loss to explain thee mess down on highway 101 this morning. There was little delay in traffic, which was quickly diverted into previously existing detours, but the southbound lane of highway 101 was blocked nearly three hours, until 10 a.m.