DOT recommends truck ban, alert system on Onondaga Lake Parkway

The aftermath of the Megabus crash on September 11, 2010 / file photo

The state has released its long-awaited study of traffic safety on the Onondaga Lake Parkway, and has suggested two key changes to the current highway configuration.

In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, the State Department of Transportation recommended that commercial vehicles be banned from the Parkway in an effort to cut down on truck hits to the railroad bridge.

"There are signs up and down the Parkway and yet people are still ramming into the bridge," said Liverpool resident Trista Garner. "I mean, it's right in front of you and you're still doing it -- so I think they should take commercial trucks off the Parkway."

The DOT also recommends installing a detection system that will alert drivers when their vehicle is too tall to fit under the overpass. The report addresses long-held safety concerns about the low bridge, which were spotlighted last fall when four people were killed and dozens of others were injured in a late night bus crash.

"This report details a wide range of options for improving the safety of the Onondaga Lake Parkway, some that we already have implemented and other, more long-term solutions that we can consider for the future," said DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald. "The State Department of Transportation will continue to aggressively implement measures to improve traffic safety on this busy highway."

McDonald says the report was originally intended to address only crashes involving vehicles running off of the road or crossing the center lines, but was expanded at the request of Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney to address the CSX railroad bridge after September's Megabus crash. The driver in that crash, John Tomaszewski of New Jersey, was indicted on May 9 on four counts of criminally negligent homicide after prosecutors said he was distracted by his GPS system and drove into the bridge.

In a separate incident just this month, a commerical moving truck ran into the bridge on May 11, shearing the top off of the vehicle and spilling debris across the road.

The DOT says that since last fall it has already implemented several new features in an effort to cut down on Parkway crashes of all kinds. They include:

- Extending the 30 MPH speed limit coming out of Liverpool by 900 feet- Adding electronic speed signs- Asking local police agencies to step up traffic patrols- Adding center median rumble strips to alert drifting drivers- Removing brush around the various bridge height warning signs- Painting Low Bridge Ahead warnings on the Parkway pavement- Adding a traffic camera near the bridge

The full report, which can be downloaded by clicking here, details several other possible long-term suggestions for improving safety around the railroad bridge. The State reports that many suggestions, which include raising or renovating the bridge, are not feasible because the bridge is owned by CSX or construction will negatively impact the nearby environment.

While many folks we spoke with agree that these changes are much needed, some questioned why it took so long to get to this point.