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November 10, 2020 1:00 PM, EST

New York Completes Bridge Project to Prevent Truck Strikes

CuomoGov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at a past press conference. (NYGovCuomo via YouTube)

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced the completion of a bridge replacement project that is meant to prevent bridge strikes by providing higher clearance for vehicles, including trucks.

Bridge strikes occur when truckers traverse under a span that’s too short to accommodate the height of their vehicles.

Cuomo on Nov. 9 announced the completion of the $3.8 million replacement of the Old State Road Bridge, which crosses Interstate 90 about 11 miles northwest of Albany. This segment of I-90 represents a portion of the New York State Thruway. According to the governor’s office, some 5,300 vehicles use the span each day.

“Not only does the new Old State Road Bridge improve the safety and reliability of the Thruway, but by increasing its clearance, we are helping prevent troublesome traffic delays which impact travel and commerce,” Cuomo said. “While maintaining strong, safe transportation infrastructure is critical for keeping our roadways safe, it’s also an important piece in growing local economies.”

Approximately 220 bridge strikes occur every year in New York. These incidents result in potential injury for truckers and motorists, expensive bridge repairs and traffic disruptions. According to the governor’s office, there have been more than 1,100 bridge strikes on state roadways since 2015.

Bridge strikes were a challenge with the previous Old State Road Bridge. The new structure offers an increased clearance of 16 feet, 6 inches for traffic on I-90. Additional improvements include wider travel lanes and new guiderails.

Construction began in March and wrapped up within budget and ahead of schedule. The project required 260,000 pounds of structural steel and 1,000 tons of asphalt.

“When you ask New Yorkers which issues they care about most, infrastructure and transportation are likely to make it on the list,” Albany County Executive Daniel McCoy said. “Our residents deserve to be able to get to work, school, day care and everywhere else each day with peace of mind.”

In an effort to prevent future bridge strikes, Cuomo directed the New York State Police, the New York State Department of Transportation and the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee to launch an enforcement and education initiative. The campaign is scheduled to take place Nov. 9-15.

As part of the initiative, state troopers will direct active patrols to areas where bridge strikes by large trucks have been an issue. Although certain state roads are restricted to commercial trucks, such vehicles can end up on these routes sometimes through GPS navigation systems.

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In addition to increased enforcement, the initiative includes educational materials for drivers regarding the hazards of low bridges and how to avoid them. Tips include awareness of signs and pavement markings and the use of commercial GPS systems (rather than those designed for consumers). These materials will be made available at highway rest areas, truck rental facilities and Department of Motor Vehicles offices.

Trucking Association of New York President Kendra Hems said she hopes education efforts related to bridge strikes and more accessible prices of GPS systems will help truckers avoid low-clearance structures.

“At one time, there was a pretty great discrepancy between an off-the-shelf passenger unit versus the commercial,” Hems told Transport Topics. “We were hearing, particularly with owner-operators, that they use that passenger GPS instead, because it was much cheaper. I’m hopeful, as the education campaigns have been out there and the price of GPS units [has] come down, they’re making that better choice and purchasing the commercial grade rather than the passenger.”

New fines for those operating commercial vehicles on New York State Parkways took effect Sept. 3. The fines vary based on weight. For a vehicle that weighs more than 26,000 pounds, a first violation penalty is $700 or 15 days in jail.

“The Department of Transportation is proud to join with the State Police and our other partners in government in this important initiative that will hopefully keep trucks off roads where they don’t belong and make our highways safer for everyone,” NYSDOT Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said.

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