Infrastructure Bites Back

Internet-infamous, truck-decapitating bridge will finally be raised

A moving truck getting demolished by the "Can Opener." (Copyright Jürgen Henn – 11foot8.com)

It’s the end of an era. The 11-foot, 8-inch railroad trestle that went viral for sheering the roofs off of campers, freight trucks, and other too-tall vehicles in Durham, North Carolina, is finally being raised.

Nicknamed the “Can Opener” for obvious reasons, the Norfolk Southern–Gregson Street Overpass gained notoriety after Durham resident Jürgen Henn set up a webcam in 2008 (and a second in 2009) to capture the carnage. Although there are plenty of signs nearby warning of the bridge’s low height, drivers either ignored or didn’t see them, and the resultant crashes were preserved forever on 11foot8.com. A subreddit, documentary, and plenty of memes soon followed, as viewers often binge watched the oddly soothing footage and shared tales of similar bridges in their own cities.

But on October 18, that all changed. The Durham Transportation Department announced via Twitter that they would be raising the overpass by eight inches and closing the street below from October 23 through November 5. The upgrade is one of the North Carolina Railroad Company’s (NCRR) Major Capital Investments projects, which is intended to improve railway conditions around the state.


In the case of the Can Opener, the NCRR is undertaking a “Rehabilitation of NCRR bridge over Gregson Street in Durham to increase the roadway clearance from 11 feet, 8 inches to 12 feet, 4 inches for the purpose of improving safety and reducing damage to NCRR infrastructure from vehicle strikes,” according to their list of capital improvements. What took the NCRR so long? According to 11foot8, the railroad company had installed a crash bar to mitigate damage to the bridge, and lowering the road would be prohibitively expensive due to the sewer main that runs right below the span—thus placing the upgrade on the backburner, as the crashes weren’t impacting NCRR service.

As Mel Magazine laments, the raising of the overpass marks a blow to collective internet meme-making and schadenfreude-based binge-watching. When one hits play on an 11foot8 video, they know exactly what they’re getting into, no matter how fast or slow the approaching truck tries to sneak under. Still, just because the bridge is getting raised doesn’t mean the “fun” is over; as numerous online commenters have pointed out, the maximum allowable height of a truck in North Carolina is 13 feet, 6 inches. 11foot8 might live on after all.

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