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Over-height vehicle detection systems deployed on New York City parkways

Built in the 1930s and 1940s, New York City’s parkways were designed for automobiles and have low bridge clearances, so large commercial trucks are prohibited from entering them. New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) has now deployed detection systems to prevent commercial vehicles damaging vital infrastructure.

Governor Andrew M Cuomo has announced the completion of a US$4.8m over-height vehicle detection system project on two New York City parkways. The infrared system identifies and alerts over-height vehicles illegally using the parkway to prevent them from striking low-clearance bridges, with some as low as 7 feet (2.1m), which are found on most parkways in the city. The system was installed at four locations on the Hutchinson River Parkway in the Bronx, and one location on the Grand Central Parkway in Queens. The detection systems, developed by the NYSDOT, are part of the state’s latest effort to keep commercial vehicles off parkways and improve roadway safety, as bridge strikes can result in serious accidents, significant traffic delays, and damage to the bridges.

Using infrared beams, the detection system identifies an over-height vehicle illegally using a parkway, captures the vehicle’s movements on video, and then posts an alert message for the driver on an electronic variable message sign (VMS), enabling them to leave the highway before encountering a bridge. The data and video are also sent to NYSDOT’s Joint Traffic Management Center so that police can assist in getting a truck safely off the roadway, or mobilize quickly if an accident occurs. The NYSDOT has installed similar equipment at five locations on the Hutchinson River Parkway in Westchester County, three locations on the Northern State Parkway on Long Island, and one location on the Onondaga Lake Parkway in Salina.

Under the Governor’s direction, NYSDOT has taken a series of steps to investigate and reduce the number of bridge strikes caused by commercial vehicles on parkways and highways. The agency has improved signage and road markings, installed flashing beacons and VMS alerting truck drivers of travel and bridge height restrictions, and improved mapping information available to truckers through GPS services, industry groups, brochures, and the 511NY travel information service.

The NYSDOT and the New York State Police also lead a multi-state, inter-agency bridge hit task force, which shares information between state, local and private entities in the New York City metropolitan region. As part of this effort, the agency has convened discussions with insurance companies, map providers, GPS manufacturers, and the trucking industry to collaborate on safety improvements.

“This groundbreaking technology will improve traffic safety, enhance mobility, prevent delays, and protect our highway infrastructure,” said Cuomo. “These roadways are key parts of New York City’s transportation system, and these improvements will make them more convenient, reliable and safer for all.”

NYSDOT Commissioner Matthew J Driscoll commented, “Governor Cuomo has made transportation a priority, and investments like this are helping to modernize our highways and make them safer. We are continuing to work with the State and City Police Departments, and others, to reduce bridge strikes.”

November 9, 2016

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