GLENVILLE -- The state Department of Transportation has agreed to install additional warning signs and increase the reflectivity of existing warning signs near two low-clearance railroad bridges.
The goal is to reduce the number of times large trucks strike the bridges, located on Glenridge Road. They have been hit 57 times in recent years, with an estimated 90 other near-misses, prompting state Sen. James Tedisco, R-Glenville, and Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh, R-Ballston, to call on DOT to take additional actions.
Tedisco has personally witnessed and photographed several bridge strikes. He and Walsh estimated the costs to the town of Glenville in police, emergency response and highway personnel have totaled $50,000 over the last decade.
"The DOT's announcement that they will be working to enhance the reflectivity of existing signage and install additional warning signs is a positive step in the right direction that hopefully will help prevent some of the bridge strikes, reduce traffic headaches and potentially save lives," Tedisco said.
In an Oct. 24 letter to the two state legislators, DOT Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said the department will add signs warning of a low-clearance bridge ahead, make existing signs more reflective to increase their visibility, and work with state police and local agencies to increase enforcement of the existing restrictions.
But Dominguez said signage isn't the main problem.
"The primary cause of trucks striking this rail bridge is attributable to motorists ignoring existing warning signs, including the use of non-commercial vehicle GPS route guidance systems," Dominguez wrote. "These GPS units typically only map the shortest route without accounting for the weight, height, or other restrictions that may apply to large vehicles. DOT representatives encourage the use of commercial GPS systems in commercial vehicles."
“I am very happy to have heard from New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez that proactive steps will be taken by the NYSDOT to address the potentially-dangerous and costly bridge strikes at Glenridge Road in Glenville,” Walsh said.
Glenville Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle said any improvements will be helpful, but won't prevent trucks from hitting the lowest bridge, which has a clearance of 10-foot, 11-inches.
"I think it's a good first step," Koetzle said. "Anything they're willing to do is helpful, but until they raise the bridges, trucks are going to continue to strike them. We appreciate their response."
A narrow 10-foot clearance railroad bridge on Maple Avenue is also sometimes struck, but Koetzle noted that it isn't on a significant truck route, as the Glenridge Road bridges are. They cross a road that is the most direct route between the Northway and the various stores and markets in the Glenville Town Center; the road is used by about 10,000 vehicles per day, so temporarily shutting down the road leads to major traffic problems.
The bridge strikes are also a problem for CP Rail, which must halt rail traffic until an inspector determines the bridge remains sound. Preventing strikes is up to local authorities, according to the railroad.
"Motorists are responsible for obeying rules and signs on roadways," CP Rail spokesman Andy Cummings said in September. "CP immediately halts train traffic when it receives a report of a vehicle making contact with a railroad bridge. Traffic resumes only after a railroad bridge inspector verifies it’s safe."