Glenville officials are taking the first step toward penalizing truck drivers and/or their hauling companies for striking bridges in the town.
Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle said he will be introducing at Wednesday’s Town Board work session a local law that would authorize the town to assess penalties for striking bridges, in an attempt to recoup some of the financial burden placed on the town and its taxpayers for the frequent strikes and near-misses at the low-clearance railroad bridge on Glenridge Road.
In the last three years, Koetzle said in a phone interview Monday, there have been nearly 40 strikes, and nearly 50 other times where town police and highway workers had to be called to the scene to help a truck turn around before it struck a bridge.
“You’re looking at 90 incidents over three years,” Koetzle said. “That’s alarming to me.”
The proposed law would add into the town’s vehicle and traffic code the ability for officers to issue tickets for striking the bridge.
Koetzle said the town was examining whether the ticket would be assessed to either individual drivers or the company they drive for, and that when he introduces the proposal Wednesday, preliminary plans for the penalty would likely fall within the realm of $150 to $200, in line with other vehicle violations.
“Number one, it gets people’s attention,” he said. “Number two, there needs to be some compensation to the town for all the resources that are called out during these strikes — many often leading to overtime.”
While Koetzle acknowledged the penalty wouldn’t come near equaling the expenses incurred as the town deals with bridge strikes, it would provide some consequence and help reimburse the town for the personnel hours spent dealing with the issue.
On average, Koetzle said, it takes the town about two-and-a-half hours to clear the scene after a bridge strike, leading to nearly 100 hours of extra work to deal with the approximately 40 strikes during the last three years.
“It’s 100 hours of our police and highway personnel being tied up on things other than patrolling the town or responding to other calls,” he said, “or doing important work in the highway department like paving or plowing. This isn’t even factoring overtime into it.
“We know it’s not going to be a dollar-for-dollar thing. It’s just a way to say, ‘Look, pay attention. And, if you don’t, you’re going to be ticketed.”
The town has engaged with both the state Department of Transportation and the company that owns the bridge, CP Rail, in an attempt to find remedies to the problem.
While Koetzle said DOT has been “responsive” in placing more signage that warns oncoming trucks to the bridge’s 10-foot, 11-inch clearance, the department has been “pretty hesitant” to other ideas to combat the problem, including crossbars and flashing lights.
“We haven’t seen the proposal,” DOT spokesman Bryan Viggiani wrote in an email Monday evening. “When it’s available we’ll review it.”
“A lot of folks think this is a town bridge, or a town road,” Koetzle said. “The town has absolutely no authority over either. It’s something that folks really ought to understand. The rail company owns the bridge and it’s a New York state DOT road. We have to live by their rules.”
In November 2019, state Sen. Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, and Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh, R-Ballston, asked Gov. Andrew Cuomo and DOT for a portion of the state’s $25 million bridge strike prevention fund to enhance public safety and attempt to reduce strikes at the site.
Despite the attention, problems persist.
“It actually seems to be getting worse,” Koetzle said. “It’s one of the strange situations with more education and attention around it that does not seem to be helping.”