County Executive George Latimer met with Rye Brook officials today to review the progress that has been made in reducing truck collisions with the King Street Bridge above the Hutchinson River Parkway. According to statistics from the State and County, the King Street Bridge was struck by trucks eight times in 2019. That was a significant drop from 2018, when the bridge was struck 24 times.

“The King Street Bridge was known for being hit by trucks more times than any other bridge in New York State. It no longer has that dubious distinction. I am grateful to Mayor Rosenberg and the village administration for partnering with us to make progress on this difficult issue,” Latimer said. “Bridge strikes not only cause danger and inconvenience to motorists on the parkway, they also have had a significant impact on the village. When a bridge strike occurs at King Street, traffic frequently has to be diverted off the parkway and on to local streets.” 

Latimer has made eliminating bridge strikes a priority and has worked closely with the New York State Department of Transportation to find new solutions.  In 2019, the state completed a $1.8 million project to mitigate bridge strikes at King Street. That project included installing an over-height vehicle detection system in advance of the bridge and placing additional warnings on the face of the bridge, which was struck by vehicles 130 times from 2008 to 2018.

Village of Rye Brook Mayor Paul S. Rosenberg said: “We are so appreciative of the county for stepping in and addressing this serious problem. Since the new warning signs have been installed, the number of trucks who have hit the King Street Bridge has almost fallen to zero.”

Also today U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York and two fellow senators from neighboring states are urging Google and other GPS navigation system providers to add information about commercial vehicle restrictions to all phone apps, especially those that are free to the public. While commercial-grade GPS apps are available for purchase, many truckers do not do so because of the expense and they rely only on apps on their personal phones.

“Westchester has made major progress by reducing strikes to the King Street bridge through its installation of a revolutionary detection system. More must now be done to prevent bridge strikes,” said Senator Schumer. “That is why, after learning that 92% of drivers involved in these accidents used a personal GPS system while driving, I am urging the leading manufacturers of smartphone-based GPS applications – Apple, Google and Waze – to add data to their maps alerting drivers of potential road restrictions, including on the Hutchinson River Parkway, with all due speed.”

“In every bridge strike that occurs, a truck driver has driven past multiple signs and message boards that advise them that trucks are prohibited,” Public Safety Commissioner Thomas A. Gleason said. “We generally find that the trucker is also not relying on a proper, commercial-grade GPS program, and is from out-of-state and unfamiliar with our parkways and New York State regulations. Box trucks and trailers have split open and sent cargo and other debris flying on to the roadway following a bridge strike. This poses a real danger to all motorists who are driving nearby.”

Bridge Strike Background

As part of the state project, enhanced signage and electronic message boards, known formally as Variable Message Signs (VMS), were deployed along Interstate 287 to warn that trucks are prohibited on the Hutch and other designated parkways.  The signs on I-287 signs direct truckers to stay on the interstate and avoid the Hutch.

Many out-of-state truckers involved in bridge strikes have reported to Westchester County Police that they were traveling on I-287 before exiting to get on the Hutchinson River Parkway. Whether they head north or south from that location, truckers soon encounter bridges that are too low to accommodate a box truck or tractor-trailer.

The project’s two over-height vehicle detectors are at Exits 26 and 29 of the Hutchinson River Parkway. The detection system includes technology mounted on either side of the road, creating an infrared beam over the parkway.

When an over-height vehicle breaks the beam, the receiver sends a signal and activates a warning message on a VMS, notifying the driver to exit the parkway immediately. An alert is also sent to the County Police and to the New York State Transportation Management Center in Hawthorne.

The new signs and message boards installed last summer were in addition to existing signs, VMS and pavement markings on the Hutch and its entrance ramps. These signs and pavement markings advise NO TRUCKS LOW BRIDGE, Passenger Cars Only and other warnings. Many truckers involved in bridge strikes admit they were inattentive to the signs and were relying on a GPS program on their personal phone rather than a GPS device designed to guide commercial vehicles.

The newest signage includes a variety of new messages on the Hutch or I-287 near the Hutch interchange, including:

  • Low Bridges Ahead
  • Trucks Exit Now
  • All Trucks Buses RVs Must Exit
  • Trucks Do Not Use Phone GPS
  • Trucks Stay on I-287
  • Low Bridge on Exit 9N
  • No Trucks Buses RVs on Parkways – Low Bridges
  • Trucks to Conn Whitestone Bridge Must Use Exit 12.

Reflective red triangles were placed on the bridge structure to enhance a trucker’s ability to see a low bridge ahead in the dark.

The County Police issue multiple summonses to truckers involved in bridge strikes. It also works with the trucking company’s insurance provider to obtain reimbursement for the police time spent at these incidents.