GLENVILLE – After about 100 tractor-trailer strikes and turnarounds in the Canadian Pacific Railroad bridge’s existence on Glenridge Road, local officials are calling for the state and the rail company to take action in the wake of this week’s latest accident.
Town Supervisor Christopher Koetzle and the local legislative delegation said they want the state to close the underpass to truck traffic and raise the 10-foot, 11-inch bridge to a height that would be safer, as determined by traffic engineers.
All of the roads involved are owned by the state and county and would require state Department of Transportation involvement to coordinate and execute a solution, officials said.
On Tuesday, a tractor trailer struck the bridge, and the driver, 26-year-old Moussa Diomande of Charlotte, North Carolina, was the first to be cited under a new local law that fines drivers up to $450, Koetzle and Police Chief Steve Janik said.
Diomande was driving a 2020 Freightliner from the Penske Trucking Leasing Co. of Reading, Penn.
He was cited for a town code ordinance violation. Diomande had been traveling the proper speed limit of about 40 miles per hour, Janik said.
As a result of the accident, the driver of a 2012 Hyundai, a 48-year-old Schenectady woman who was behind the truck, suffered a neck injury from slamming on her brakes as debris from the tractor trailer came through her rear windshield.
According to Janik, debris struck the front of the Hyundai and rolled over the top of her car, taking out the Hyundai’s back windshield.
A Mohawk Ambulance took the victim to Ellis Hospital in Schenectady, where she was released, Janik said.
There was extensive debris on the state road, and, amidst limited police staffing, Janik said he had to use four officers to respond, including two at the immediate scene, and two others at separate ends of the bridge to reroute traffic.
The cumulative cost to local taxpayers since 2012 has been more than $50,000 for police, fire and highway personnel response, officials said.
When tractor-trailers strike the bridge, the chief said, it’s not easy to clean up the site. It takes hours to clear the wreckage, the manhours are expensive, and the brunt of the costs fall on the municipality, Janik said.
The chief credited the town board for conducting extensive education on the issue in the town’s push to make the citation more serious than a traffic ticket.
But the chief called for other partners to provide a common solution.
In a statement, state DOT spokesman Bryan Viggiani said the agency had already been looking into developing additional countermeasures to prevent bridge strikes at the Glenridge Road overpass.
“There are a combined 14 signs in both directions, plus pavement markings, warning truckers of the low clearance bridge,” the spokesman said.
In the westbound direction alone – the same direction the truck was traveling Tuesday – there are nine advance signs over approximately three-quarters of a mile warning of the height of the bridge, Viggiani said.
Koetzle reiterated a call for action from the state.
“This is an old refrain,” Koetzle said. “We continue to call on the state. We continue to call on the rail company, and yet nothing gets done. We’ve said repeatedly that someone is going to get hurt. Someone did get hurt. It has to end now.”
Koetzle said it’s clear that trucks cannot travel the route.
“Close it, close it, close it,” he said, adding that such action would simply require signage.
Concerning raising the bridge’s height, the supervisor said:
“If it costs $2 million, if it costs $3 million –- they’re throwing around money in Washington and Albany that are 10 times that amount for infrastructure – make the investment. Make us safe.”
Andy Cummings, a spokesman for Canadian Pacific, indicated the company wasn’t to blame for the accidents, yet suggested it would work with entities.
“New York State DOT permitted CP to [re-construct] the current bridge in 2012 over Glenridge Road. The structure complies with all regulations,” Cummings said. “Motorists are responsible for obeying road signs and traffic laws.
“If NYSDOT wants to raise clearances for motorists on Glenridge Road, CP is willing to work with the agency to accommodate the necessary work.”
Canadian Pacific has asked the state Department of Transportation for permits to temporarily close lanes to reinforce the bridge and install high-visibility beams that could prevent collisions.
NYSDOT has denied CP’s request to install the beams, Cummings said.
In the meantime, Koetzle said he’s fed up.
“There’s no mincing words anymore,” the town supervisor said. “We’ve tried every avenue. We’ve had the meetings. We’ve had the discussions where we all talk nice to each other. This has got to stop.”
In a statement, state Sen. Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, and Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh, R-Ballston, joined Koetzle and the chief’s call for action.
“Enough is enough,” Tedisco said. “We have told the state and the railroad over and over these Glenridge Road bridge strikes not only impact our local economy but are a clear and present danger to our residents.”
The next time this happens, the senator said, it could be a huge chunk of steel from a truck crashing into a car and killing a family.
“Clearly, the state and the railroad are derelict in their duties to protect the safety of our constituents,” said Tedisco, adding he’s researching and will be supporting and putting forth legislation to provide legal recourse for municipalities like Glenville.
Walsh said it’s without question that the railroad bridge is a failing infrastructure, and corrective action that includes requiring commercial GPS to be used in every commercial large vehicle is needed.
Tedisco and Walsh wrote a letter to the DOT in March requesting they implement a truck route that would prevent trucks from using Glenridge Road between Route 146 and the “Glenridge Circle” at Maple, Glenridge and Hetcheltown roads.
The proposed truck route would begin at Route 146 and 146A. It would proceed down Route 146 to Aqueduct Road, to Maxon, then back up Freeman’s Bridge Road.
Tedisco and Walsh also sought the implementation of an electronic detection system near the 146 intersection so that it can adequately warn drivers that there is a low bridge ahead.
The technology would be deployed in a location before Blue Barnes Road and Bruce Drive and before the truck enters the Glenridge Road corridor. Beyond these locations, there are no opportunities for the driver to turn around, and therefore this placement would allow for the safest of options.
In 2019, Tedisco and Walsh wrote a letter to the governor and the DOT to use state funding from the state’s bridge strike prevention fund to add electronic adjustable message signs, bridge lighting, communication improvements to help local law enforcement redirect any potentially problematic vehicles, and an over-height detector similar to those that have been implemented in the Hudson Valley and Long Island.