GLENVILLE — The state Department of Transportation is actively considering installation of a laser-activated warning system or similar measures to reduce the number of times large trucks strike the bottom of the low-clearance Glenridge Road railroad bridge, according to Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle.
Koetzle met Wednesday with DOT representatives, including Region 1 Director Pat Barnes, and said he was pleasantly surprised by what he heard.
‘They rank this as their No. 1 issue in Region One,” Koetzle said. “That’s huge. The laser deterrent system is already being pursued, and they’re looking at funding for that.”
The meeting, held via video because of the COVID-19 pandemic, was arranged as the town continues to seek ways to address the bridge strikes, which on average have occurred about once per month for the last decade. The strikes have continued despite numerous warning signs on approaches to the bridge, which carries CP Rail tracks.
The state has jurisdiction because Glenridge Road is a state highway.
A DOT spokesman wouldn’t characterize the content of the meeting, but indicated it went well. “The New York State Department of Transportation had a positive meeting with the Town of Glenville this week and we are continuing to explore all potential options to prevent bridge strikes at the Glenridge Road Bridge,” said regional spokesman Bryan Viggiani in an email.
The bridge’s 10-foot, 11-inch clearance is too low for many commercial trucks. Big rigs coming off the Northway and headed toward Glenville Center sometimes hit it, but many who hit it are non-professional drivers operating rental trucks, Glenville police say.
In recent weeks, Koetzle has introduced a draft town law that would allow town police to ticket and fine those who hit the bridge, hoping that any fine revenue could be used to help pay for a laser-alert or similar system. A public hearing on the proposed law will be held March 17, and the Town Board could act that night.
But based on the Wednesday meeting, Koetzle believes DOT could pursue an electronic alert system on its own.
Laser systems work by having a laser beam directed across the road that, if broken by a too-high truck, would activate warning lights. Assuming a truck then stops, there would still be the question of how to back it up or turn it around.
There are laser alert systems installed at low-bridge locations in Westchester County and in the Syracuse area, and elsewhere around the country.
Based on a suggestion made at the meeting, Koetzle said he is writing to DOT Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez, urging that funding for the project be included in the 2022 DOT budget. The bridge strikes, which generally require town police and highway personnel to respond, “are becoming increasingly burdensome for the town and are presenting an ever-escalating safety issue for our residents and travelers of that corridor,” he said.
Koetzle has also pushed for an alternate truck route that would keep trucks between the Northway and Glenville Center off Glenridge Road entirely. He plans to write municipalities that would need to support the route — the towns of Clifton Park and Niskayuna, city of Schenectady and Saratoga and Schenectady counties — seeking support for the idea.
“We are still pursuing it,” he said. “The key thing is that it’s about safety.”