The Applegate Road-Highway 99 overpass and the northbound fast lane of the highway were shut down most of Thursday after a big rig struck the overpass, according to California Highway Patrol.
The highway lane was expected to reopen Thursday night, but Caltrans determined the collision caused structural damage and the overpass was shut down indefinitely, according to an afternoon update by the Atwater Police Department.
The bridge is the main connector between the major shopping center south of the highway and the cities of Atwater and Winton to the north.
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A 2013 Kenworth semi towing an excavator on a flatbed trailer was traveling north at about 6:40 a.m. Thursday in the left lane on Highway 99, underneath the Applegate Road overpass, when the excavator’s boom arm struck the underside of the bridge, CHP Merced Officer Eric Zuniga said.
Investigators determined the driver, identified as 34-year-old Atwater resident Charles McMahan, loaded the excavator incorrectly.
“The excavator’s boom arm was at an upright position, well over the 15 feet-1 inch height requirement,” Zuniga said.
McMahan was issued a citation for the incident, Zuniga said, noting the driver’s employer’s insurance company would have to work with Caltrans for the cost of damage done to the bridge.
Motorists traveling north on Highway 99 and trying to get to the Applegate shopping area were being encouraged to take alternate routes, including getting off the Atwater Boulevard exit.