An 18-wheeler slammed into the front porch of the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center on Feb. 15, prompting officials to close the facility due to structural damage. Photo courtesy of Johnson City Police Department
UPDATE: At 9 a.m. Friday, Feb. 16, National Park Service officials reopened the Johnson City Visitors Center. However, visitors must enter the building from Lady Bird Lane instead of the front porch, which sustained damage and remained closed Feb. 19 pending an assessment by a structural engineer.
STAFF WRITER CONNIE SWINNEY
JOHNSON CITY — An 18-wheeler jack-knifed and slammed into the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center with such force Feb. 15 that it might have shifted the building’s foundation by 4-5 inches. Police believe speed played a factor in the incident.
No one was inside the building when the collision occurred at about 6:30 a.m. at the corner of Lady Bird Lane and U.S. 290. No injuries were reported.
However, the wreck prompted officials to close the facility, located at 100 Main St.
The building, a former mercantile store built in the early 1900s, is owned by the U.S. National Park Service, which leases it to the chamber of commerce.
“The impact from the gravel hauler was pretty extensive,” said chamber Executive Director Frances Ann Giron. “We’re not sure of the structural (integrity) of the building.”
Traffic was rerouted around the scene for about an hour while crews cleared the vehicle and began assessing the structural damage.
“(The truck driver) was passing Avenue G. The roads were wet. He applied his brakes … brakes locked up and skidded about 100 feet … and then he jack-knifed,” Johnson City Interim Police Chief Marty Corcoran said. “It took out a couple of poles that hold up awnings. The foundation looks like it shifted about three or four inches.
“The truck was empty. He just simply made a mistake,” the interim chief added. “Failing to control speed is the violation because you have to drive to the conditions of the road.”
The visitors center, typically open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. seven days a week, will remain closed pending a structural engineering review.
Chamber officials said they will continue to assist customers through emails and forwarded phone calls.
“Our (Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park) superintendent is going to reassess (the closure) in the morning to see whether it’s going to be a problem,” Giron said.