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Another truck hits Route 370 bridge

On March 4, a tractor-trailer hit the CSX railroad bridge over Onondaga Lake Parkway, despite an over-height vehicle detection system meant to deter such accidents.

On March 4, a tractor-trailer hit the CSX railroad bridge over Onondaga Lake Parkway, despite an over-height vehicle detection system meant to deter such accidents. Photo by Sarah Hall.

— It’s become a familiar sight to those who regularly travel Onondaga Lake Parkway: a tractor-trailer wedged under the 10’9” CSX railroad bridge over Route 370 between Route 81 and the village of Liverpool.

On Tuesday, March 4, a 13’9” truck driven by An B. Zhang, 40, of San Jose, struck the underside of the bridge, despite numerous signs alerting drivers to the low clearance, as well as a one-of-a-kind detection system installed in 2011 that sent out alarms alerting him to turn around. Zhang, who speaks Mandarin, said he didn’t understand the signs due to the language barrier.

This isn’t the first accident since the system was installed. Another tractor-trailer hit the bridge in December of 2013. The driver, 33 year-old Waleed Sleit of Chicago, said he didn’t see the numerous signs regarding the bridge’s height.

Fortunately, no one was hurt in either instance, but it has some people asking: does the over-height detection system work?

The state installed the $300,000 over-height vehicle detection system in the fall of 2011 in the wake of a Megabus crash in which the bus’s driver, following his personal GPS, hit the bridge, killing four people and injuring nearly 30 more. The system consists of a laser projector and receiver mounted on opposite sides of the Parkway, vehicle-presence detectors placed in each lane of the roadbed and two dynamic electronic message signs. If a vehicle more than 11 feet high interrupts the laser beams while passing over the pavement detectors, the roadside dynamic message signs will flash a message to the driver to stop before the bridge, and a buzzer also sounds. The system will also automatically send a message to the state Department of Transportation’s Traffic Management Center, which will then notify Onondaga County’s 911 Center so that law enforcement can be dispatched to assist the driver in turning the vehicle around.

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