New signs warn truckers of low bridges

Markings on the Hutchinson River Parkway northbound remind Markings on the Hutchinson River Parkway northbound remind trucks they are not allowed to use the parkway. (Nov. 26, 2012) Photo Credit: Elizabeth Daza

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A series of pavement markings on the Saw Mill River and Hutchinson River parkways designed to prevent trucks from slamming into bridges have been completed, the state Department of Transportation said Monday.

Such accidents have been an ongoing problem in the New York metropolitan area as 18-wheelers wander onto highways that are supposed to be closed to tractor-trailers and smash into the low bridges.

Ironically, GPS devices, designed to keep motorists from getting lost, are cited by police and transportation experts as a key contributor to the bridge-collision problem.

"There's a commercial GPS truckers should be using that would give them warnings about overpasses," said Robert Sinclair Jr., AAA New York's manager of media relations. "If you use a passenger car GPS . . . it doesn't filter out highways with overpasses that won't accommodate a tall truck."

The pavement markings, which read "No trucks Low bridge," have been added at 10 locations along the Hutchinson River Parkway and four on the Saw Mill River Parkway in Westchester County, according to the state.

"People aren't used to seeing pavement markings, so they stand out," said DOT spokeswoman Jennifer Post. "Truck drivers and people driving over-height vehicles are who these markings are aimed at."

The Bridge Strike Mitigation Task Force, which "has been researching what works around the country to help prevent bridge strikes," recommended the locations for the pavement markings, she said.

The DOT also is working on pavement markings to avert bridge strikes on Long Island and in New York City. On Long Island, the signs have been painted on ramps to the Southern and Northern State parkways.

Data from the state show that bridges over the Hutchinson River Parkway and one of the highway's elevated exit ramps accounted for nine of the 15 most-struck bridges in the Hudson Valley from 2003 through mid-2010.

One bridge alone, carrying state Route 120A over the limited-access Hutch at Rye Brook, registered 95 truck hits from 1993 to mid-2010, the most of any span in the Hudson Valley, according to DOT data.

On average, the Westchester County Department of Public Safety handles roughly one bridge strike a week. In all of 2011, for instance, there were 50, county officials said.

And every truck strike results in drivers, trucking companies or insurance companies being billed tens of thousands of dollars for the cleanup, according to the officials.

Besides the expense involved in accident cleanups, there is the extensive cost of repairing damage to the bridge, not to mention massive traffic delays.

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