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Low Bridge in Bensonhurst an Accident Waiting to Happen

Many trucks cannot pass under a bridge in the Brooklyn Bensonhurst neighborhood. Residents report that the tops of trucks have been ripped off because they attempt to go under the bridge, ignoring the posted vehicle height limits. Some people say that the warning sign is too small and that the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) should put up a more visible sign.

Some truck drivers think they can make it and instead get stuck under the bridge that carries subway trains, snarling traffic at Bay Parkway and 86th Street. A local council member noted that recent repaving of the street may have made the bridge lower than posted, increasing the chances that a truck will get stuck. He would also like the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the trains using the overpass, to ensure that the stuck trucks below have not reduced the structure's stability.

The state Department of Transportation reported last spring that 164 vehicles hit bridges last year in the NYC metro area. Additionally, more than 250 trucks entered the city illegally and used parkways or hit overpasses in 2013 and 2014. The city has strict height and weight limits for trucks entering the city and requires truck drivers whose vehicles exceed those limits to obtain permits to use city streets.

The state is installing height monitors at entrances to the parkway system that rings New York City. The city has been publishing approved truck route and bridge height data since 2007 in an effort to prevent bridge strikes.

The parkway system, built in the early 20th century, was never intended to carry truck traffic. Some bridges are less than 7 feet high.

In 2013, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration began issuing recommendations for the use of GPS systems in trucks. In particular, the agency is asking truck companies and training programs to provide education on the proper use of GPS systems. It also established criteria for the types of professional systems that should be used in trucks. This was in response to an increase in bridge strikes by trucks, apparently because truckers did not know how to use their GPS systems. Another reason for the increase was that some GPS systems were not accurate enough to prevent truckers from approaching low bridges.

Despite efforts by city, state and federal agencies, bridge strike truck accidents continue to occur. Will a truly serious incident happen in Bensonhurst because a truck tries to go under the bridge? Until now, no lives have been lost. However, the past is no guarantee of the future.

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