Low bridge crashes persist in New York despite costly attempts at fix

RYE BROOK, New York (WABC) -- You're commuting home after a long day's work and boom - you're stuck in traffic for hours.

Chances are at least one of those delays was due to a truck hitting a low bridge on a parkway that shouldn't have been on the road in the first place.

It often looks like the tops of the trucks have been peeled off by a can opener, and in many cases, the contents of that truck spill over the parkway -- everything from butter to gasoline.

The New York area has some of the lowest bridges in the country, and they're struck at least 150 times a year.

"It's frustrating," says Joe Fitzpatrick, who owns a trucking business and is a driver himself. "You're wondering, how did I get on here? How can I get myself out of here? What did I do wrong?"

Seven On Your Side Investigates crunched three years of crash data to find the top 10 bridges that keep getting struck in the area.

The bridge that is struck most frequently in the entire viewing area is the King Street Bridge, running over Hutchinson River Parkway in Rye Brook. It was struck at least 53 times in three years.

"It's a very expensive accident, and it needs to be prevented," said Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, who has been trying to come up with a fix for problem bridges in Westchester County for decades. "I am perplexed that the state has not come up with a simple solution to keep trucks off the parkways."

Top 10 bridges and how many times they've been struck:

The state claims it has implemented fixes, including a multi-million dollar high-tech solution to help prevent bridge strikes on the King Street Bridge installed last fall. It's an infrared sensor that triggers a warning sign when trucks are too tall on the Hutchinson Parkway, advising them to get off the road.

But some say the warning comes too late, and we found there have been at least four crashes in two months' time since the sensor was installed.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer said crashes are down in 2019 compared to 2018, and that there needs to be more time to see the true effect the technology has on the parkway.

"I don't think technology will be perfect," he said. "There will continue to be bridge strikes, because it depends on how the person takes the warning."

Latimer also said he's looking to have the technology installed at other problem bridges.

We spotted a semi-truck driver pulled over on the side of the road after realizing his truck was too tall to pass underneath safely, and he called police to figure out how to get off the parkway.

Many truck drivers like Fitzpatrick believe there should be signs that hover above the entrances to the parkways that warn drivers before they get on the roads in the first place.

Abinanti has proposed bills to install entrance way signs numerous times that have been vetoed.

The Trucking Association of New York said most of the drivers who hit bridges are from out of state, and they should be using truck route GPS devices.

"It's not intentional," Trucking Association President Kendra Hems said. "I think, unfortunately, it's not knowing, not being familiar with the restrictions, and not paying attention."

The state Department of Transportation did not respond to any specific questions about the new technology or what's being done to cut down on accidents in other bridge strike locations.

Instead, a spokesperson sent a statement saying: "The New York State Department of Transportation has taken aggressive actions to mitigate bridge strikes by commercial vehicles that illegally enter restricted state parkways. These actions include enhances signage, installation of state-of-the-art over-height vehicle detection technologies, and heightened enforcement efforts."

During the current budget year, state officials said they're spending an additional $25 million to help prevent bridge strikes on various state roads.
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Seven On Your Side Investigates crunched three years of crash data to find the top 10 bridges that keep getting struck in the area.

The bridge that is struck most frequently in th

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