Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s announced that part of the 2019-20 Executive Budget includes $25 million to mitigate bridge strikes on parkways across New York State by deploying new state-of-the-art technologies and automated devices including dual infrared beams, audible bells, and warning signs with flashing beacons — to warn drivers of immediate danger. There have been 576 bridge strikes on New York State highways since 2015, causing injuries, traffic delays and damage to bridges and highway infrastructure. The new technology would send warnings directly to commercial vehicle drivers as well as law enforcement.
“Bridge strikes are not only a public safety concern but also cause significant delays on high-traffic parkways across New York,” Governor Cuomo said. “The State has taken aggressive action in recent years to reduce the frequency of these crashes including installing new over-height detectors and warning signs on parkways, but more needs to be done. This proposed funding will bolster our efforts to curb bridge strikes and enhance safety and reliability of critical highways across the state.”
The new technology would send warnings directly to commercial vehicle drivers as well as law enforcement. This initiative also calls for significantly increasing penalties for commercial vehicle operators who disobey over-height vehicle warning devices.
The New York State Department of Transportation has been testing innovative over-height vehicle detection technologies along parkways in the Hudson Valley, Long Island, New York City and Syracuse. New signage, such as that on the Triborough Bride will help as well.
New York State parkways traditionally have bridges that are lower than the standard legal bridge clearance. Commercial vehicles, school buses, tractor trailers and other tall vehicles are prohibited from driving on parkways (something many drivers from out of the region do not know).
Department of Transportation Acting Commissioner Paul A. Karas said, “This low bridge warning system will prevent bridge hits before they happen, enhancing safety for the thousands of commuters and residents who travel the State’s Parkways every day. Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s leadership, this is another smart investment that is making it easier than ever to travel the state.”
This new initiative looks to be a wonderful step by the State in reducing bridge strikes. There is just one area of concern and that is that this new system does not address either the OEM GPS navigation systems or the mobile apps such as WAZE and Google Maps. Many bridge strikes occur because drivers are not familiar with the parkways or local laws and rely on non-commercial GPS and driving apps. This must be addressed in order to bring the bridge strike number down to zero.