NYSDOT Puts Height Detectors, Warnings on Parkway to Curb Trucks Striking Bridges

AASHTO Journal, 10 April 2015

In a bid to reduce truck strikes of low bridges, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the New York State Department of Transportation has installed “over-height vehicle detection” systems at two interchanges on the Hutchinson River Parkway in the Hudson Valley.

“This administration has been focused on improving New York’s transportation network and better protecting those who rely on it,” Cuomo said. “Installing these devices will help with these goals,” and make “a vital Hudson Valley roadway safer and more reliable.”


The governor’s office said large commercial trucks and tractor trailers are prohibited from entering parkways in New York State because the roadways, which were built in the 1930s and 1940s, have low bridge clearance and were designed only for cars.

But bridge strikes often produce serious accidents, significant traffic delays for motorists and sometimes damage to the bridges, the announcement said.

Commissioner Joan McDonald said: “Our transportation infrastructure must be taken care of in order to save travelers time and save taxpayers money.”

NYSDOT developed the detection systems, which use infrared beams to identify trucks that are too tall for a road segment. The devices trigger large, bright electronic messages when detecting an illegal-height vehicle instructing the drivers to pull over and call Westchester County Police for assistance.

And once triggered, the systems automatically alert operators at the DOT’s Traffic Management Center, who will also notify the police to help get the trucks off those ramps and roadways.

Bridge strikes also occur on more modern roadways. For instance, McDonald announced on April 6 that work has begun on a $4.1 million project to replace an Interstate 81 exit overpass carrying State Route 177 in Jefferson County.

An over-height truck damaged it in October 2012, reducing it to a single lane and requiring temporary traffic signals to control its access ever since.

The project that put the detection systems on the Hutchinson River Parkway was part of a $5 million pilot program approved by Cuomo and the New York State Legislature last year.

It is among a series of steps that NYSDOT has taken to curb bridge strikes by commercial vehicles. The department has also improved signage and road markings, installed flashing beacons and variable electronic message signs alerting truck drivers of bridge height restrictions. And it has improved mapping information that is made available to truckers through GPS services, industry groups, brochures and the 511NY travel information service.

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