New York DOT Hopes New Warning Tech Will Cut Crashes

Officials with the New York Department of Transportation are considering an early warning system to reduce bridge crashes. Large trucks on the Onondaga Lake Parkway have been hitting the rail crossing for decades.

by Mark Weiner, Syracuse Media Group / July 2, 2019
Shutterstock/debra millet

(TNS) — New York state may order changes to traffic patterns and upgrade warning technology on Onondaga Lake Parkway in a renewed effort to cut down on crashes into the CSX railroad bridge.

The potential changes include intersection improvements to prevent trucks from entering the parkway, lane reductions in targeted areas and lower speed limits to calm traffic and give truck drivers (who are banned from the road) time to stop and turn around before hitting the low bridge.

State engineers also will consider making technology upgrades to an early-warning system installed in 2011, a state Department of Transportation spokesman said Monday.

The state’s goal is to come up with a proposal that will be shared with the public by the end of the year, said Joe Morrissey, a DOT spokesman in Albany.

“Right now, we’re evaluating the system that’s currently in place and comparing it with technology that may not have been available when the system was originally installed in 2011,” Morrissey told syracuse.com | The Post-Standard.

The DOT decided to take a new look at ways to prevent crashes into the bridge after Gov. Andrew Cuomo included $25 million in this year’s state budget for new technologies that alert drivers and law enforcement when over-height vehicles approach low bridges.

Morrissey said the state’s new effort was not prompted by any recent crashes on Onondaga Lake Parkway in Liverpool.

The average height of a semi-truck trailer is 13 feet 6 inches to 14 feet. The clearance under the bridge is marked as 10 feet 9 inches.

The latest crash occurred Wednesday night when an empty tractor-trailer driven by Tyrone Gibbs, 38, of Syracuse, hit the low bridge, forcing law enforcement to shut down the parkway for four hours in both directions.

The warning system installed in 2011 detects tractor-trailers and other large trucks. When activated, the system’s warning signs flash the words, “Overheight vehicle detected” and “Stop Now.”

Sensors also trigger an alarm at a state Department of Transportation command center that operates 24 hours a day. Cameras on the parkway allow DOT workers to see if a driver needs help.

The warning system was activated 431 times in its first two years of operation, and more than 600 times in both 2014 and 2015, according to traffic records. Despite the warning system, an average of one to two trucks per year still crash into the steel railroad bridge.

©2019 Syracuse Media Group, N.Y. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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