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Cuomo wants to expand warning system to avoid low-bridge strikes

The proposed state budget contains $25 million for installing more "over-height detectors" and signs in trouble spots statewide.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's amendments to his budget

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's amendments to his budget proposal included restoration of a $60 million cut in the Aid and Incentives for Municipalities, an official said. Photo Credit: AP / Seth Wenig

ALBANY – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo proposes to install more infrared beams, bells and flashing beacons to warn drivers of trucks and buses approaching a bridge too low to clear, on Long Island and other parts of the state.

Cuomo proposes to commit $25 million to expand the project in trouble spots statewide with more "over-height detectors" and signs as well as to explore new technologies. Cuomo also proposes to significantly increase penalties for disobeying the warning signs.

 Under the system begun in test areas more than two years ago, an invisible infrared line is tripped by a vehicle that is too tall to clear an upcoming bridge. Then, signs light up to warn the driver in time to take an exit. State officials said state parkways, many built in the early 20th century, are lower than standard legal bridge clearances. 

Cuomo said Wednesday there have been 576 bridge strikes statewide since 2015, including one last year at the Eagle Avenue overpass of the Southern State Parkway in West Hempstead involving a bus carrying students and chaperones, mostly from Huntington, that left 43 injured. In that crash, the investigators said the bus driver was using a noncommercial GPS device that contributed to the bus traveling on a highway with bridges too low for the vehicle.

Cuomo’s $25 million proposal is part of negotiations with legislative leaders  on his proposed $175.2 billion state budget. A budget agreement is due by April 1.

“This low bridge warning system will prevent bridge hits before they happen, enhancing safety for the thousands of commuters and residents who travel the state’s parkways every day,” said Paul Karas, acting commissioner of the Department of Transportation.

In 2017, Cuomo introduced a $4.3 milion expansion for Nassau and Suffolk counties of an electronic pilot project to warn drivers of too-low bridges. The proposed new system has been tested on parkways on Long Island, New York City, the Hudson Valley and Syracuse.

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