GLENVILLE — The town will go forward with plans for a law to fine truck drivers who strike the Glenridge Road railroad bridge, but the best solution would be to route commercial trucks away from the road entirely, town leaders said.
“The key is, we have got to stop the trucks before they even get to Glenridge, at (state) Route 146,” said Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle.
An alternative designated truck route — probably down Route 146 into Niskayuna and Schenectady, and then north into Glenville on Freeman’s Bridge Road — would require approval from the state Department of Transportation, since the state owns both Route 146 and Glenridge Road.
“That’s a long ways around and truckers will not be happy, but I think this is really one of the most critical things we can do,” Koetzle said.
In the meantime, the Town Board plans to go forward with a local law that would allow truck drivers who strike the low-clearance (10-foot, 11-inch) CP Railroad bridge to be ticketed under town law, and fined up to $450. Fine money would be saved for a technology solution, like a laser-sensor system to alert drivers their truck won’t fit under the bridge.
The Town Board is expected to hold a public hearing on the proposed law — a digital hearing due to COVID-19 gathering restrictions — on March 17, and could act that night.
“The ‘Glenridge Road Bridge Strike Dilemma’ is not the fault of the town, nor is it the town’s responsibility — it is solely the responsibility of the rail company and NYSDOT,” Koetzle said. “This is a state highway, not a town road, so we have no jurisdiction on deploying solutions and the bridge is owned by CP Rail, not the town. But somebody has to take leadership here and we will continue to work with all parties to remedy this problem and do whatever we can to keep our residents safe.”
The town is trying to address a persistent problem with commercial tractor-trailers and rental trucks — typically heading from Northway Exit 9 to chain stores in Glenville Center — striking the bridge, typically doing severe damage to the cargo trailer and forcing temporary shutdown of rail traffic.
The problem has persisted even as the solution has drawn the attention of state politicians and additional warning signs have been posted.
Glenville Police Chief Steve Janik said there have been 36 bridge strikes in the last three years — about one a month, on average. There have also been about 50 emergency turnarounds — cases where a large truck stopped before the bridge, but needed police assistance in turning the truck around on the two-lane road.
Because a lengthy police and highway crew response is needed each time an incident occurs, closing the road, Janik said the town has spent about $50,000 in police and DPW over-time on bridge strikes over the last three years.
Janik said many of the drivers involved have told police they were using their personal GPS devices to find the fastest route to their destination — and personal systems typically don’t include the low-bridge advisories a commercial-grade GPS would have.
While there are numerous warning signs before the bridge, Janik believes westbound truckers are fooled because they safely passed under the first of two railroad bridges they encounter, not realizing the second bridge is lower. “A lot of the strikes have been at force, the trucks are going 30 mph,” he said.
Given the shearing of truck roofs and potential for stripped sheet metal flying through the air, Janik believes it is only a matter of time before someone is injured. Nobody has been so far, he said.
“I think a lot of these people are using GPS and not paying any attention to their surroundings,” said Councilman Michael Godlewski.
A DOT spokesman said earlier this week that no ideas have been rejected. Koetzle said he will be meeting with DOT representatives in the near future.
In the past, however, Koetzle said DOT has rejected the idea of allowing construction of a truck turnaround near the bridge, where there is a town-owned nature area. The Democratic candidates for Town Board, including Godlewski, this week said a truck turnaround area needs to be part of the solution, though Koetzle said he doesn’t want the natural area disturbed.
“Even if the laser system works, you still have a truck that has gone too far,” Godlewski said.
Godlewski urged Koetzle to bring it up with DOT, and Koetzle said he would.