2 min read

Tunnel Vision

You should read those highway signs about tunnel height restrictions
Tunnel Vision
Image by tookapic from Pixabay

Highway signs, height restrictions, and driving on empty

There were no signs warning me not to drive into the tunnel with an empty gas tank.

That I was driving my mom’s Ford Focus was embarrassing enough. The big problem was that the gas needle was on empty.

There were no signs necessary because the state highway department assumed that I had the intelligence to put gas in the car on occasion.

The last thing the highway department wanted was to have some punk teenager run out of gas right in the middle of the busy tunnel and stop eastbound traffic. The state department of transportation did not care about my automotive fuel needs.

Running out of gas on an interstate highway that went underneath the Mobile River would be a mess!

Who would do that?

So, let’s not talk about that.

Instead, let’s talk about this guy.

18-wheeler carrying hay stuck in Bankhead Tunnel
An 18-wheeler is stuck after attempting to go through the Bankhead Tunnel. The tunnel is currently closed as officials…

As you can see, a truck driver decided to pull off a magic trick and squeeze his oversized trailer into the Bankhead Tunnel, which was clearly marked to prohibit such nonsense.

The vertical clearance was 12 feet. His truck apparently was not.

I don’t know why the driver selected this tunnel. There are several ways to get to Baldwin County from downtown Mobile. There are at least two bridges and an additional tunnel with higher clearance. There's also a ferry if you prefer a long scenic drive. The only vehicles allowed in the tunnel that he chose are passenger cars and pickup trucks.

Because it was built in the 1940s, well before large, wild, and unrestrained 18-wheelers roamed the highways, it is a very narrow tunnel.

Good thing that he was hauling hay and not chickens, old cooking oil, or nuclear waste.


Of course, the Ford Focus died! I wouldn’t let you down.

Right there in the right-hand eastbound lane. Within three seconds, the department of transportation workers monitoring the tunnel on closed-circuit TV flipped switches, which illuminated massively huge red signs with a big X on them.

Which reminded me that I wasn’t supposed to be there, out of gas, and blocking traffic.

The whole tunnel glowed an eery red.

A wrecker appeared to push the out-of-gas Ford out of the tunnel and out of the way of important travelers, who clearly had more important places to be as they hastily drove around me waving politely.

Not.

Probably from Mississippi.

I was 19 and lacked a fully developed brain. Few men should be allowed to roam alone before the age of 30.

I think the truck driver was under 30 too.

Many tunnels have technology that alerts drivers that their vehicle is too high. But the Bankhead Tunnel only had a sign. Which went unread and unheaded.

So, know your height restrictions, and weight limits, and please, read the signs, even if you're from Mississippi.