GLENVILLE, N.Y. (NEWS10) — It feels like a tale as old as time — hit after hit after hit to the Glenridge Road rail bridge.
“We’re not going to put ‘to serve and protect’ on our car, we’re going to put ‘to investigate bridge strikes.’ I mean that’s just, we’re tied up a lot there,” says Town of Glenville Police Chief Stephen Janik.
Since the last time NEWS10 visited Glenville back in November, Janik says there have been four more trucks crashed into the bridge and eight times police responded to help the big rigs turn around.
“It feels like I have something or another happening at that bridge every week. It’s definitely talked about around the town, and any time I meet someone from another agency or even in my social time, social groups, everyone always says, so what’s going on with those bridge strikes?” Janik explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton. “It’s gotten to the point where I’m just like, really? Do we have to talk about the bridge strikes? I’m tired of the bridge strikes.”
Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle says in the past three years, there have been close to 40 times where a large truck has hit the bridge while trying to fit under 10 foot 11 inch trestle, and also 50 more times where the drivers stopped in time but needed police response to stop traffic and assist turning them around. He says an estimate of the overtime, lost productivity, and resources dedicated to accidents at the Glenridge Road bridge totals close to $50,000.
“We usually only have two patrol officers on every shift, and so when I have to put resources on a bridge that may incur overtime, because I have to call additional resources in, that’s taxpayer money,” explains Chief Janik.
Koetzle says the road is a state road overseen by the New York State Department of Transportation and the bridge belongs to the Canadian Pacific Railway company, so the town has no jurisdiction for any major changes. So instead, he proposes amending the town charter to include a fine for missed traffic signs.
“Raising the bridge would require CP to spend millions on raising the tracks in both directions several miles, and they’ve already told us they won’t do it, it’s not economically feasible. On the other hand, DOT can’t lower the road, because there’s a stream running under there and any attempt would flood the road so cars couldn’t get through,” Koetzle explains.
“Right now, police officers could ticket a person under the state vehicle and traffic law for failure to obey a sign or control device, but that fine is only about $150. Almost 100 percent would go to New York State. So what I’m proposing is we would make a town ordinance. We would write that under local law and what I’m proposing is for that to go up as high as $500,” he goes on to say.
He says the proposal would focus on educational tools to warn drivers about the bridge as well as the possibility of the town paying for new technology they haven’t been able to get approved for state funding.
There are 14 DOT warning signs that surround both sides of the Glenridge Road rail bridge warning of the height restriction. Koetzle says since bridge strikes remain a constant problem, his town planner asked DOT engineers to survey the area for technology similar to what the state installed in Westchester County back in 2019.
NYSDOT used around $1.9 million for bridge lighting, a scanner that can detect vehicle size, and electronic message boards that would respond to the sensor findings and flash stop signs if a vehicle could not clear a rail bridge. Koetzle claims DOT engineers “responded positively to the idea” of installing such technology; however, the town planner was told funding would be an issue.
He says this is the reason a town board discussion for Wednesday was tabled until Glenville can get legal questions answered on how they would be allowed to use money collected from town traffic fines.
“Can we use those fines as a dedicated fund to fund that technology?” Koetzle asks. “That’s what we don’t know, and we would need to have that information in hand before we proceed to discuss these proposed fines. Ultimately, either way I think we need to move forward with the local law, because I think it’s important part of our education and awareness piece.”
The New York State Department of Transportation responded to NEWS10 request for comment with the following statement:
The New York State Department of Transportation takes bridge strikes very seriously and works with our partners in government to combat them through a combination of engineering, education and enforcement. We’re continuing to have a dialogue with the Town of Glenville and examine all potential options to prevent bridge strikes at the Glenridge Road location. No idea has been rejected by DOT.
Both Koetzle and Janik say fixing the bridge strike problem is not Glenville taxpayer’s responsibility, it’s a state road so the state should take it seriously. They still hold out hope the state will come through with funding for educational tools and safety warning technology.
“God forbid, there’s a person or a family behind that truck and something gonna fly onto that car and hurt or kill somebody,” says Koetzle.
“With the pandemic, we all know funding is hard to come by and that much of the state’s budget had to go towards COVID response and vaccinations and testing sites. I’m not ignorant to the fact that funding plays a big role in this, but we can only do so much. I can’t put a car, a police car, on Glenridge Road before the bridge 24/7 with its lights on watching for large trucks to come through that intersection,” Janik says.
He also adds a solution will need to be found soon since four out of his 24 police officers on the Glenville force will all be retiring within six months, and he may well not have the manpower to constantly divert services to Glenridge Road accidents.
NEWS10 also sent a message asking if Canadian Pacific Railway considered investing in its own traffic safety measures around the Glenridge Road bridge, since nothing can be installed on it without the company’s approval. The response was this brief statement:
Motorists are responsible for obeying rules on roadways and the signage installed by road authorities.