GLENVILLE — With a proposal for dealing with the frequency of commercial trucks striking the Glenridge Road railroad bridge due to be discussed at Wednesday’s Town Board workshop, Democrats on Tuesday released their own proposal for a solution.
The Democratic candidates in this fall’s town elections are suggesting adding turn-around space for tractor-trailers in a town-owned natural area east of the bridge called the Alplaus Kill Natural Area.
Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle, a Republican, has proposed writing a town law that would establish fines for striking the bridge to as much as $500, and is hoping any fine money collected can be used pay for installation of laser sensors that trip flashing warning lights, or other technology to alert drivers if their trucks are too tall to fit under the bridge.
Democrats are countering with their proposal for a turnaround to make it easier for trucks to turn around before hitting the bridge.
“Fining offenders will not stop unknowing drivers from hitting the bridge,” said Jenny Lippman, one of the Democratic candidates for Town Board and a civil engineer. “Currently, trucks that have gone too far are required to back up to Bruce Drive, often escorted by the Glenville Police Department. This [proposed] solution provided a safe turnaround, while enriching the landscape and enhancing already town-owned land.”
The bridge — the more western of two railroad bridge on Glenridge Road — has a clearance of only 10-foot, 11-inches. Consequently, it has been struck dozens of times over the years by tractor-trailers that couldn’t clear under it. When it happens, the trailers typically have their tops stripped off or suffer other significant damage.
Koetzle on Tuesday dismissed the Democrats’ proposal, saying the land is actually a natural area that is 92 percent wetlands and the state Department of Transportation previously rejected the idea.
“You’d have to put something the size of a cul-de-sac in a nature preserve,” Koetzle said. “That is [DOT’s] road and we can’t just cut into it without their permission. We’ve talked over the years to DOT about it. Paving in a nature preserve that is all wetlands doesn’t make sense to me.”
Lippman said she agrees with Koetzle that disturbance of nature preserves should be minimized, but nevertheless said options should be explored.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation allows limited disturbances of wetlands by permit, she noted. A turnaround could also address the lack of public parking for the natural area, she said.
“A lot of times trucks will try to turn around there, and they get stuck,” Lippman said.” There has to be something we can do. We should at least be exploring our options.”
Even as the situation has become locally notorious and additional warning signs have been installed, truck strikes still happen on a regular basis — most recently on Jan. 6.
But even cases in which drivers realize they can’t get under the bridge are problematic, since the trucks have to be backed up about 1,000 feet to Bruce Drive to turn around, with police traffic assistance needed. This also can cause long traffic delays.
The proposal introduced by Koetzle last week and scheduled for discussion on Wednesday would write a town law that would allow tickets and fines for hitting the bridge, which is owned by CP Rail. Koetzle wants the fine money dedicated to a something like a laser beam sensor, though whether the state DOT would allow that remains unclear.
Truck drivers can already be ticketed under state law for failure to obey a sign, Koetzle said, but police often don’t write that ticket for bridge strikes. Part of his proposal would make writing a ticket under the town law mandatory for police.
Additional warning signs aren’t the answer, in Koetzle’s opinion. The bridge strikes have continued even as more signs have been added in the last couple of years, and the situation become well-known locally.
“There’s like five signs and they’re big and yellow, they’re pretty prominent, so I don’t know that we can do any more with signs,” Koetzle said.
It’s thought that drivers getting off the Northway in Clifton Park see Glenridge Road as as the most direct route to delivery destinations in Glenville Center, without realizing there is a low-clearance bridge on the route. In 2019, DOT replaced eight signs and added six more; it also urges truckers to use commercial GPS systems, which include such features as warnings about low-clearance bridges.
One proposal Koetzle has advocated is to establish a designated truck route that would use Route 146 south into Niskayuna and Schenectady to route trucks to Glenville, and keep them off Glenridge Road entirely.
A DOT spokesman on Tuesday said that no ideas are off the table.
“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,” DOT spokesman Glenn Blain said in an email. “No idea has been rejected by DOT.”
The Republicans have a 3-2 advantage on the Town Board, with the two seats held by Democrats at stake in November. Councilman Michael Godlewski is seeking a second four-year term, while Lippman is running for the seat now held by Michael Aragosa, who is running for town supervisor against Koetzle.