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State system tackles truck-overpass crashes

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Wednesday will unveil a new electronic system to prevent commercial trucks from plowing into bridges and overpasses, a long-running problem on outdated highways on Long Island.

The first three systems, which will be rolled out around Memorial Day, will use infrared light beams to detect over-height vehicles on the Northern State Parkway, Route 106/107 and the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway.

The sensors will trigger new electronic signs warning truck drivers to pull over and contact New York State Police for help.

"New York State is enhancing traffic safety, protecting our highway infrastructure and helping to save lives," Cuomo said in a statement. "Accidents involving over-height vehicles and our bridges are dangerous and can cause significant disruption."

The state Department of Transportation developed the electronic system in response to ongoing accidents involving commercial trucks hitting bridges throughout the metropolitan region. Officials say many out-of-state drivers don't realize they're entering roadways, some of which are 80 years old and were built strictly for cars.

The first systems will be installed at:

Route 106/107 ramp to westbound Northern State Parkway in Hicksville.

Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway ramp to westbound Northern State Parkway in Plainview.

Long Island Expressway Exit 38 ramp to eastbound Northern State Parkway in Roslyn Heights.

State DOT will install more systems along the Hutchinson River Parkway before year's end and, in 2015, detection systems will be installed on parts of the Southern State Parkway and other parkways in New York City and Westchester County.

The state will spend $5.5 million on the project this year and next.

Officials said a similar system has been effective in reducing truck accidents since its installation in 2011 along the Onondaga Lake Parkway near Syracuse. More than 400 commercial trucks have triggered the system, but only one over-height vehicle has struck a bridge, officials said.

There were 150 bridge strikes on Long Island and in New York City and in the Hudson Valley in 2013. "We are committed to using innovative techniques, enforcement and public outreach to eliminate bridge hits on our parkways," DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald in a statement.

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