“We’re very lucky” to have avoided tragedy, Christopher Geldart, the city’s acting deputy mayor for public safety, told reporters at the scene.
The truck, which was heavily damaged, is called “a roll off truck” and operates somewhat like a dump truck but with a flat, narrow bed for hauling containers. When the bed is lifted, part of it rises higher than the cab. Authorities said they were trying to determine whether the bed accidentally rose and struck the bridge while the truck was moving.
The clearance under the bridge was about 14 feet, Geldart said.
“The truck fits under the bridge,” he said, referring to the cab. “The back part may not have.”
In the hours after the crash, Geldart said the bridge was last inspected in February and that its moorings were judged to be sound. Wednesday night, Geldart released a statement saying he had “misstated the condition” of the bridge.
In the statement, Geldart said that after the February inspection, the bridge was given a rating of “poor,” a finding that “prompts the multiyear planning process to replace the bridge.” In 2019, it was given a rating of “fair,” the statement said.
The statement did not address the question of whether the bridge might have withstood the apparent collision if it were in better condition.
The District Department of Transportation on Wednesday did not respond the multiple requests about the condition of the bridge and any plans for repairs. It also did not respond to requests for information about the most recent inspection.
A man who answered the phone at Frank’s Scrap Metal & Salvage in Gaithersburg, Md., acknowledged that the company owns the truck. He said he could provide no details about the accident except that the driver, who was taken to a hospital, “is okay.”
The D.C. police major-crash unit is leading the investigation.
Meanwhile, engineers were inspecting other Anacostia Freeway bridges that the northbound truck passed under, looking for potential damage, Geldart said. He said it could take until late Thursday for workers to remove the tons of concrete and steel from the freeway and fully open it to traffic. The city estimated that the road would reopen at 10 p.m. Thursday.
“We’re hoping that estimate comes down, but that’s the estimate,” he said. He said he could not estimate how long it will take to replace the bridge, which connects the Kenilworth and Deanwood neighborhoods, near the Maryland border.
Police said access to the freeway from Maryland will be blocked “until further notice.” Southbound traffic on the freeway is being diverted at Eastern Avenue and northbound traffic at Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue, police said.
The bridge is an important access point to the Deanwood Metro station from the northeast side of Kenilworth Avenue. D.C.’s Department of Transportation has for years studied replacing it and two other pedestrian bridges over Kenilworth Avenue.
Clarence Williams contributed to this report.