High-tech Detectors Aimed at Stopping Big Rigs from Hitting Parkway Bridges

bridge truck strike
This truck had the roof ripped off of its trailer when it hit a bridge on the Northern State Parkway.

Infrared detectors are being installed at three entrances to the Northern State Parkway as a part of a $5-million pilot program aimed at preventing tractor-trailers from hitting low parkway bridges, officials said.

The devices use infrared beams to identify over-height commercial vehicles illegally entering the parkway, triggering electronic signs warning drivers to pull over and alerting authorities so New York State Troopers can try to stop the trucks before they hit a bridge.

“We are committed to using innovative techniques, enforcement and public outreach to eliminate bridge hits on our parkways,” Joan McDonald, commissioner of the state Department of Transportation, said in a statement.

One hundred and 50 bridges were struck by trucks on parkways on Long Island, in New York City and in the Hudson Valley last year, a 29-percent drop from the year prior, officials said.

Parkway bridges on LI built in the 1930s and ‘40s were designed for cars, not big rigs, which often have their trailers’ roofs ripped off when trying to pass under clearances as low as seven feet.

The LI-leg of the high-tech system, which includes closed-circuit cameras, is nearly completed at the Route 106/107 north ramp to Northern State Parkway westbound in Hicksville, Route 135 north ramp to the Northern State Parkway west in Plainview and the Long Island Expressway east Exit 38 ramp to Northern State Parkway east in Roslyn Heights.

More detection systems are slated for the Northern State and Southern State parkways, as well as parkways in the city and upstate. The first one was installed along the Onondaga Lake Parkway near Syracuse three years ago.

The state has also been beefing up signage to better alert truckers of height restrictions, updating maps available to truckers through GPS services and coordinating a multi-state bridge hit task force to help combat the problem, which adds to LI traffic delays.

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