‘The same story:’ Truck driver who struck railroad bridge was following GPS; driver ticketed

GLENVILLE – A tractor trailer carrying paper towel products was the latest truck to hit the Glenridge Road Bridge, which happened Monday afternoon.

The bridge has been hit close to 100 times since it was built, Glenville Police Chief Stephen Janik said Tuesday.

“It’s the same story,” Janik said. “It’s a person not paying attention to the signage, following their GPS which is not a commercial GPS; it’s just a GPS that they’re using from their phone.”

No one was hurt in Monday’s incident, Janik said. In all the times the bridge has been struck only once has there been injuries, police said.

The most recent incident occurred at around 4 p.m. Monday.

The truck driver, identified as Geury Salvador Balbuena Dominguez, 29, of Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, was coming from Fort Edward and heading back to Canada. The truck is owned by HL Motor Group Inc. in Ontario, Canada.

The driver was issued a ticket for failing to adhere to bridge height restrictions, a town code violation which carries a fine of up to $450, Janik said. The driver was also cited for failure to obey a traffic control device, which is a New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law violation that carries a fine of up to $250 and possible points on the driver’s license.

The bridge has a 10’11’’ clearance. Most tractor trailers are in the range of 12 feet, Janik said.

A potential solution to the issue would be to create a different truck route for commercial drivers, Janik said. A large percentage of these drivers come off I-87, Exit 9, and they are trying to head west towards the Thruway, he said.

“A lot of these drivers we’ve found are coming south on the Northway, trying to get westbound towards the I-90 exchange,” Janik said. “They are directed to get off at Exit 9, then take 146 through Clifton Park and then they come straight down Glenridge, passing at least four [warning] signs, if not more.”

The first bridge that commercial drivers come to on that route is high enough that they will be able to pass under it. “That’s one of the big issues, that there’s an illusion that making it through the first bridge will allow you to make it through the second,” Janik said. “The other issue is that when they’re following a non-commercial GPS. A lot of those non-commercial GPS’s do not indicate structural issues for the height of their vehicle.”

The bridge was hit a total of 22 times in 2021, and has been hit 12 times in 2022, Janik said. In July, DOT announced the completion of a new truck turnaround area along Glenridge Road immediately east of the bridge.

The turnaround has been installed about 500 feet east of the railroad overpass for westbound vehicles, which is the direction of travel of the majority of vehicles that have struck the bridge in recent years, the state DOT reported in July .

“He claims GPS just brought him there; he wasn’t obviously paying attention to anything other than GPS,” Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle said. “So he followed his GPS and hit the bridge pretty hard, pretty fast. He was ticketed.”

The road was closed for about six hours, Koetzle said. The closure caused increased congestion through Alplaus.

The bridge is owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway, and the road drivers travel on is a state DOT maintained road.

“The town has no authority,” Koetzle said. “We’ve been advocating very strongly with DOT and CP Rail to make changes. Those are the results of what you see with the signage, the blinking lights, the turnaround. There will be a laser detection system that DOT will be implementing this spring that will help.”

The detection system will trip and set off more flashing lights and signs when a truck that is too tall to go under the bridge passes through the beam, Koetzle said.

“I’ve said this repeatedly, but short of one of two things, it’s never going to stop,” Koetzle said. “One is either closing it to truck traffic completely, making it physically impossible to drive down there, or two, raise the bridge. Those are the only two options that are going to physically prevent it 100%. Everything else is just a mitigation measure.”

Koetzle said he is “shocked” that professional drivers do not seem to be paying attention to the road signs.

The state DOT announced a series of plans to help reduce the number of bridge strikes in 2021. In addition to the new turn around area, some of those projects included flashing beacons that were installed