Foss: Time to solve Glenville’s Glenridge Road railroad bridge problem

From a bridge strike from January

From a bridge strike from January

For years, the Glenridge Road railroad bridge has been the infrastructure equivalent of a head banging against a brick wall in frustration.

Nobody’s surprised when a truck crashes into the bridge and becomes stuck underneath, because it happens with such alarming regularity.

Nor does anyone deny that these crashes are a major headache, putting drivers at risk, damaging property and disrupting traffic along a well-traveled road.

Indeed, the frequency with which trucks strike the bridge has made it clear that this is a chronic problem, and that just putting up warning signs and flashing lights – two things that have already been done – won’t solve it.

Which is why every bridge strike feels like a head banging against a wall.

The dangers posed by the low-slung railroad bridge are widely known. They’re well-documented.

And yet they persist, with each crash reinforcing the state’s ongoing failure to address the underlying design flaw that’s at the root of all these crashes – 36 over the past three years.

Glenville officials have offered up their own solutions, including a local law that would allow truck drivers who strike the bridge to be ticketed and fined up to $450.

Unfortunately, they’re limited in what they can do.

The strikes impose a heavy burden on the town, which responds to them, but Glenridge Road is a state highway, and the bridge is owned by a railroad, Canadian Pacific Railway.

Neither entity has treated the bridge strike problem as a matter of great urgency, even as the frequency of accidents becomes increasingly and darkly comical – the sort of joke that’s funny until someone gets badly hurt.

Fortunately, there’s reason to believe that this is changing, and that a solution to trucks smacking into the 10-foot-by-11 inch high structure might really be forthcoming.

Last week Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle reported that DOT is considering installing a laser-activated warning system.

While not a panacea – big trucks alerted to the bridge’s low height by the system would still need to stop, back up and turn around – this might prove more effective at getting drivers’ attention than signs or flashing warning lights.

Koetzle has also suggested routing commercial trucks away from the town entirely, and this idea deserves consideration, too. Directing large trucks elsewhere would help reduce the number of bridge strikes, and might also improve quality of life.

For too long, the Glenridge Road railroad bridge has had a Groundhog Day-like quality, with driver after driver smashing into the bridge as if caught in some sort of time loop where nobody learns from past mistakes.

The time has come to put an end to these crashes, and relieve Glenville of the responsibility of cleaning up after them.

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected] Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.

Categories: News, Opinion, Sara Foss, Schenectady County

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