Three bridges on Interstate 20 are in need of repair and a Sonora man is in jail after being accused of hitting all three with an oversized load.
Amalio Ramon Villanueva, 34, of Sonora, is accused of hitting them with an oversized load he was transporting Tuesday afternoon, according to Texas Department of Transportation officials and a criminal complaint filed by the Department of Public Safety.
According to the complaint, around 4 p.m. Tuesday a DPS trooper was called out to a one-vehicle crash I-20 at the Crane Avenue overpass.
The trooper said he saw a truck tractor towing a flat bed trailer carrying an excavator when he pulled up to the scene. The complaint reported that the load was three feet above the load height Villanueva was permitted to transport, and that the arm of the excavator caused “substantial damage” to the bottom of the overpass.
The complaint continued the trooper reported learning the driver, identified as Amalio Ramon Villanueva, 34, of Sonora, also struck the north and southbound bridges at I-20 and Loop 338, but had continued to travel until hitting the Crane Avenue overpass.
The complaint stated Villanueva did not have a valid permit to drive the over height load and admitted to DPS troopers that he knew better but continued to drive his vehicle. In the complaint, Villanueva admitted fault in the accident.
Officials at TxDOT estimated the minimum amount of damage at $240,000 the complaint stated..
TxDOT public information officer Gene Powell said there was no definite estimate as to how much the repair would actually cost, but that he had never seen a bridge damaged as badly as the one at the Crane Avenue Overpass.
“Usually when we see this, the first two beams are hit,” Powell said. “But to hit all eight — I haven’t seen an incident where all eight beams were hit. This isn’t just knocking off a piece of concrete — this is seriously affecting the load of the bridge.”
Powell said the Crane Avenue Bridge will be shut down for at least a year as they work to repair the damage back to where it can withstand heavy, commercial traffic.
The north and southbound bridges of Loop 338 remained open as Powell said the damage to them was mostly cosmetic and did not threaten the strength of the bridges.
Powell continued the money for the repairs would come from a maintenance fund and would not delay any construction projects planned for the near future, but that the real cost was the inconvenience it would cause.
“We really need to stress that commercial vehicles need to get the correct permits, they need to follow these permits and they need to make sure loads are loaded right,” Powell said. “We’re really lucky the accident on 1150 two weeks ago and this one weren’t bigger in terms of collateral damage.”
Villanueva was charged with felony one criminal mischief, damage greater than $200,000, in connection to the incident.
As of Wednesday evening, he was being held on $50,000 bond at the Ector County Detention Center.
Contact Chris Bartlett at 432-333-7782, email at email@example.com, or on Twitter at @OAChrisBartlett