What happens during breakdown on bridge or in tunnel?
April 22, 2020 7:57 AM   Subscribe

Have had this thought for a while. What if you experience debilitating car problems in an area where there is no shoulder or breakdown lane? I realize it's dangerous, but surely it happens from time to time. Here's an example of a tunnel and a bridge with no shoulder or breakdown area. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ppia5xUr8kU Help ease my mind in this scenario. Thanks!
posted by toastchee to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Lots of bridges and tunnels have cameras; if you break down or stop, a tow truck will be dispatched, because it does cause big traffic holdups and is dangerous for the person stopped.
posted by theora55 at 7:59 AM on April 22, 2020 [3 favorites]

At the Golden Gate Bridge, there’s a tow truck with a special front bumpers that can be used to push stalled cars from behind until they are off the bridge.
posted by u2604ab at 8:01 AM on April 22, 2020 [3 favorites]

Pretty much you stay put in your car and wait for authorities to help you out. They will use their car, cones , and or flares and flashing lights to move traffic around you. Sometimes there is a number to call in your area, sometimes there is monitoring. Either way, they'll get you fixed up (if safe enough to do so) if something like a flat or towed. You may have to pay some fees for this service, maybe not.
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:12 AM on April 22, 2020

Yes! Holy cow I forgot about this until just now, but in the 90s I stalled on the Tapan Zee bridge, just barely 10 ft onto it and the car died. It was probably like 3 minutes or less and a huge truck showed up and pushed me all the way to the other side. I don't recall much else about it, like whether the driver talked to me before or after, but clearly systems are in place.
posted by Glinn at 8:25 AM on April 22, 2020 [5 favorites]

I had this happen on the Bay Bridge headed into San Francisco at rush hour. I don't remember the exact road configuration but my car was in a spot that felt dangerous enough (right after an on-ramp) that my friend and I got out of it in case someone hit it. Just as I was calling a tow truck one of the special (government) vehicles mentioned above pulled up out of nowhere and asked if I needed help. (Yes, yes I did.) I put my car in neutral and sat in the drivers seat. They pushed me across the rest of (basically, the entire) bridge and into a parking spot on the street in downtown San Francisco where I waited for a tow truck to take the car to my mechanic. This was free.

For what it's worth, I'd known there was something seriously wrong with my car just before the toll booth, intentionally got into a lane that was staffed by a person instead of EZpass, and asked the toll collector what to do because my car was about to die. She shrugged and gestured vaguely to the side of the road five lanes of traffic over and insisted there was nothing else she could do. In retrospect, I should have just turned the car off there anyway and called a tow truck from there.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:28 AM on April 22, 2020

Best answer: I do a lot of work with my state DOT. In areas of no shoulder on state owned roads, the state has complete camera coverage of the roadway and will monitor it continuously during heavy traffic times, so trucks can be dispatched to provide assistance. In active work zones, where there is often no shoulder for long distances, the contractor is required to have "wrecker service" on contract and written plan for how they will monitor the roadway and dispatch trucks to assist disabled vehicles, with time based goals for how fast they will get the vehicle safely out of traffic.

On a side note, if you do break down and there is no shoulder or other place to get away from traffic, please don't get out of your car. You are actually much safer in the car than outside of it. We've had some really awful incidents in my area this year where people have gotten out of their broken down cars and been killed by other vehicles hitting their car.
posted by Sabby at 9:34 AM on April 22, 2020 [10 favorites]

I had this happen once in Seattle: my tire blew out just as I was getting onto the downtown freeway, in one of the spots where it's all a mess of bridges and overpasses. I put my blinkers on, and very quickly a cop showed up and used the police car to push my car (in neutral) onto an offramp.
posted by yarntheory at 10:13 AM on April 22, 2020

Yeah you get a visit from the Shove-y Truck Fairy.
Slightly more complex if you’re driving a freight truck with air brakes.
Same with tunnels.
posted by bartleby at 12:43 PM on April 22, 2020 [1 favorite]

There is a 3 mile vehicular subterranean tunnel in my city. At one end of this tunnel, there is a manned 4x4 vehicle continually parked in a tiny service area just near the entrance. I am assuming this is the first responder should a vehicle break down or experience difficulties. I suspect the tunnel operators are contractually obliged to provide this service.
posted by jacobean at 2:44 PM on April 22, 2020

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