Yet another tractor trailer crash into Glenridge Road train bridge sparks new questions on prevention

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GLENVILLE, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Again and again and again tractor trailers smash into the train bridge above Glenridge Road in Glenville, the most recent collision on Sunday. Police Chief Stephen Janik says around 13 crashes every year costs tens of thousands of dollars in repairs and officer overtime.

“We are open to anything to stop the collisions, because this is costing Glenville taxpayers money,” he says to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.

Jason Johnson has driven a big rig for around 12 years. He says the last accident he knows of involved a friend who’s crash into a bridge cost somewhere around $73,000.

“It was to replace the top of the cab and the top of the trailer and then the damage to the bridge,” Johnson explains.

“We have a recent study by our comptroller who estimated we’ve spent around $50,000 over the last few years on officer overtime when they have to respond and also direct traffic around these accidents,” Chief Janik says.

Johnson says even though he uses a $300 commercial driving GPS and a planned route, the low bridges and train trestles aren’t always marked on the maps.

“I got close one time, and you’ve got to call the state police or the city police and they pretty much just back up until you can find a place to turn around,” he recalls.

That’s not always an easy thing to do. Chief Janik says even if you do stop in time, traffic makes turning around a huge undertaking.

“Imagine trying to reroute that truck at 7 a.m. or five in the afternoon, anyone who drives through Glenridge Road knows it’s probably one of the most congested roads in the town of Glenville. It is the direct access to New York State — to the Northway — to Clifton Park, which a lot of people used to get back-and-forth to work,” he says.

Sunday’s accident happened around 3 p.m. and even lighter weekend traffic still caused hours of obstacles.

“When [Glenridge Road] gets closed, we are now rerouting traffic through local neighborhoods. We’re rerouting traffic through the hamlet Alplaus. That’s not safe for the Alplaus residents who have to deal with 10 times the amount of traffic when the bridge is closed for six hours because of a traffic collision. Especially when we have the technology that would stop trucks from hitting it,” Janik adds.

He says local elected officials have pushed for new technology similar to that already implemented in Westchester County. Governor Cuomo allocated $25 million in the 2019 budget to bridge strike prevention statewide. The 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 make it under the King Street Bridge. The bridge was labeled the most frequently struck low bridge in the state and Janik says the Glenridge Road train bridge is now up to more than 90 collisions since it was built in 2013.

“Thirteen accidents [a year] are 13 accidents, so to say that bridge has the most strikes, well we are now equal to that, so I think it should be considered,” he says.

A statement from the New York State Department of Transportation reads:

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. In 2019, we replaced eight warning signs and added six additional ones to enhance visibility and safety at the Glenridge Road railroad bridge. We also strongly encourage the use of commercial GPS systems by truck operators that specifically account for height, weight and other road restrictions.

Bryan Viggiani, NYSDOT Public Information Officer

The NYSDOT also forwarded a press released issued Wednesday by the NYS Police. It reads 196 trucks were stopped from November 9 to Sunday and officers wrote 50 tickets in a bridge strike prevention effort. The major issue for these incidents, the statement says, is due to “operators guided by consumer-grade GPS devices” which direct towards parkways where large commercial trucks are prohibited. One such stop happened at Glenridge Road two days before Sunday’s crash.

There are 14 DOT signs on both sides of the bridge that do give ample warning the clearance is only 10’11”. However, both Chief Janik and Kendra Hems, president of the Trucking Association of New York, suggest there may be many reasons truck drivers miss them.

“The high congestion, you can understand why drivers may miss the road signs, because they are very much paying attention to where they are on the road and who else is around them,” explains Hems. “Often times when they are in situations to strike the low bridges, it’s because they don’t know where they’re going. They are not familiar with that route. Nobody starts out their route in the morning thinking they are going to hit a bridge.”

“How often do we pull over people for speeding and the first thing out of their mouth is, oh I didn’t see the sign. There’s thousands of signs. You know, we see signs for everything on the side of the road, so are we paying attention to every single sign? Probably not, and I really don’t have blame for the drivers at that point,” says Chief Janik. “However, these are pretty clear signs as you head down Glenridge Road giving the exact height of the bridge, and you should know if you’re operating a vehicle such as a tractor trailer, you really should know if you have a commercial drivers license — which they do — they should know the height of their vehicle.”

“Certainly the driver has a responsibility; however that said, the fact that this bridge does continually get hit by trucks, it indicates that there’s a bigger issue here,” Hems goes on to add. “These drivers support us and our economy with the freight that they’re hauling. We should be doing what we can to support them and make their jobs easier.”

Several other suggestions have been made to the DOT, including adding a flashing yellow light or a bar across the roadway to indicate if drivers hit that, they won’t make it under the bridge. Johnson says he’s witnessed these bars be very effective in other states.

“I think the bar would work better, because there’s a bridge in Connecticut that’s like 11’8” and it gets hit maybe 75 to 80 times a month. So they put up flashing signs and a bar about a quarter-mile before the bridge. People somehow still hit it, but the bar usually deters people and makes them turn or something,” he says.

The DOT tells NEWS10 traffic regulators are looking into possibilities. In the meantime, Johnson says from one experienced driver to another, just take every precaution.

“Plan your route before you go. You’ve just gotta use your judgment, if it don’t look right, don’t go under it,” he says simply.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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