State DOT meeting to review ways to avoid illegal bridge strikes

The afternoons rush came to a halt on The afternoons rush came to a halt on the Meadowbrook State Parkway just south of Hempstead Tpke. when a misplaced tractor trailer mistakenly entered the parkway south bound a struck an overpass becoming wedged under the bridge. (Aug. 30, 2012) Photo Credit: Fred Kopf

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Trucks hit Long Island overpasses on parkways four times this month, putting pressure on state transportation officials to take more steps to prevent the illegal incursions.

The New York State Department of Transportation's regional bridge strike task force will meet May 7 to review the situation after the department spent more than $200,000 since October to ramp up warnings at key spots on Long Island and in Westchester, among the two worst-affected areas in the state.

Added alerts "LOW BRIDGE AHEAD," "CARS ONLY" have been painted on road surfaces and extra signs installed, some with flashing lights, at 10 locations on or near exits and entrances to the Northern and Southern state parkways.

Overall, commercial trucks illegally entering parkways -- and the incidence of strikes on bridges -- is down on Long Island since 2010 when trucks strayed onto parkways an average of 18 times a month, with slightly more than four bridges hit each month on average. In 2012, after some of the added warning work, incursions onto parkways had dipped to 12 on average a month, with between three and four bridge hits a month.

Figures for January and March this year show 12 incidents of trucks going onto parkways, with two bridge strikes apiece in each month. In February, trucks went onto parkways eight times, with one bridge hit, according to the DOT.

Still, State Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick), who heads the Senate transportation committee and Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) said Wednesday they wanted to see the DOT press ahead with a pilot trial of some kind of overhead warning to physically remind the driver of a truck about to enter a parkway that the vehicle was overweight.

Wednesday marked the fourth time this month a truck struck an overpass on either the Northern or Southern state parkways. The incident occurred around 8:30 a.m. on the Northern State westbound of Sunnyside Boulevard, east of exit 38, State Police said. The DOT said last month it was reviewing potential devices and sites for a possible pilot.

But Fuschillo, who issued a statement with Martins pushing for the DOT to act more quickly, said the time is now.

"How many more of these strikes are we going to read about without anything of real substance happening?" Fuschillo said.

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