Princeton’s Red Covered Bridge that’s on National Register of Historic Places may have to be demolished after 18-wheeler ignored warning signs and crossed it, causing terrible damage

422">
  • Princeton’s Red Covered Bridge, dating back to 1863, suffered extensive damage from an 18-wheeler truck earlier this month
  • A 64-year-old female driver from Alabama has been fired from her job
  • Engineers and experts are currently reviewing the damage, which could take weeks or months, before further steps can be taken 

A historic 19th century bridge in Illinois faces the threat of demolition after suffering extensive damage from an 18-wheeler truck earlier this month. 

The 160-year-old structure in Princeton was damaged on November 16 when a truck driver ignored multiple signs and tried to drive across it.

Engineers and restoration experts remain on the fence about whether the state-owned bridge, dating to 1863 and believed to be one of only five 19th century covered bridges left in Illinois, can be repaired. 

The truck, driven by an unnamed 64-year-old woman from Alabama, destroyed several overhead support beams, which caused the roof to partially collapse at the northern end of the bridge. 

As a result of the roof collapse the walls at the northern end were forced to bow outward.

The bridge, dating to 1863, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975

The truck destroyed several overhead support beams, which caused the roof to partially collapse at the northern end of the bridge

The truck destroyed several overhead support beams, which caused the roof to partially collapse at the northern end of the bridge

When the truck continued through the bridge, it crushed the northern façade.

It also destroyed the original sign hanging over the southern entry that warned visitors of a $5 fine for ‘driving more than twelve horses, mules or cattle at one time or for leading any beast faster than a walk on or across this bridge.’

The trucking company involved in the incident, Wynn Logistics in Vernon Hills, Illinois, told KWQC that the driver’s actions were ‘reckless,’ and that her employment ‘will be terminated.’

The company added it will work with its insurance provider ‘to facilitate the restoration of the bridge to its original state.’ 

The bridge is located in a small town of 7,800 people, about 115 miles west of Chicago.

‘The community is positively devastated over this,’ said Lex Poppens, executive director of the county Historic Center. 

‘It’s such an iconic part of this area’ she explained. 

The red-façade bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and has undergone several upgrades over the last 30 years. 

Drone shots show the enormous damage inflicted on the bridge's structure from the roof down

Drone shots show the enormous damage inflicted on the bridge’s structure from the roof down

The bridge is located in a small town of 7,800 people, about 115 miles west of Chicago

The bridge is located in a small town of 7,800 people, about 115 miles west of Chicago

When the truck continued through the bridge, it crushed the northern façade

When the truck continued through the bridge, it crushed the northern façade

As a result of the roof collapse the walls at the northern end were forced to bow outward

As a result of the roof collapse the walls at the northern end were forced to bow outward

Locals have expressed their devastation at the damage to their historic bridge

Locals have expressed their devastation at the damage to their historic bridge 

Engineers with the Illinois Department of Transportation are still conducting an inspection and structural evaluation that they do not expect to be finished for weeks if not months. 

The bridge has been damaged before, notably in April 2021 when another truck, rerouted by GPS, attempted to cross it.

However, the driver stopped once he cracked the north façade and a few cedar panels.

Following the incident additional signs were erected on either side of the bridge that warn of its height and weight restrictions.

Peter Nelson, 68, who serves as Princeton’s city clerk as well as the town’s planning and zoning administrator, told the Chicago Tribune ‘they can restore the bridge, perhaps, but can you restore people using their heads when they’re approaching the bridge?’