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.
continued There is also a ban on commercial vehicles on the Parkway, also enacted in late 2011. "No Commercial Vehicles" signs are visible at all approaches to the Parkway, including I-81 and Park Street in the city of Syracuse, and Oswego Street in the village of Liverpool. Drivers of all vehicles with commercial license plates on these approaches are directed to use Old Liverpool Road as a bypass. Drivers in commercial vehicles making deliveries to sites along the parkway are permitted to enter the road, but they can’t travel its length.
According to the New York State Department of Transportation, the commercial vehicle ban came as a result of traffic analysis, meetings with local officials and a public comment period.
Despite these high-profile accidents, Gene Cilento, public information officer for the New York State Department of Transportation, said the over-height detection system is fully functional.
“The system works, but it doesn’t physically stop people,” Cilento said. “It requires drivers to notice their surroundings and heed the warnings.”
Cilento said the system has gone off a total of 561 times between the time it was installed and Aug. 29, 2013, which was the last date for which he had data. Those triggers break down as follows: 67 tests, 165 verified over-height vehicles, 124 allowances — garbage trucks and deliveries going to other locations along the Parkway — and just over 200 that weren’t seen by the system’s cameras. Cilento said those could be birds or other objects flying in the path of the lasers.
Cilento said he had trouble believing Zhang’s reasoning for hitting the bridge, as there are numerous signs in addition to the blaring sirens and lights put off by the over-height detection system.
“I don’t buy the language barrier thing,” Cilento said. “It says 10’9” all over the place. I don’t see that as a valid excuse. And the system does work. It was checked after the accident and found to be working correctly.”
Cilento said there’s nothing more the state can do to prevent over-height trucks from hitting the bridge.
“CSX owns the bridge. It was there before the road. We can’t force them to move the bridge, and we can’t lower the road, because as it is, it’s about even with the level of the lake,” he said. “We’ve put up a number of signs. Those, along with the [over-height] detection system, should alert drivers. But if drivers aren’t paying attention, it’s not going to help. Every once in a while, someone will still hit it.”