Truck spills load after hitting Onondaga Lake Parkway bridge

The debris left behind by the truck crash / photo: Andy Wolf

Dawn Kemp had a bad feeling as she saw traffic slowing down on the Onondaga Lake Parkway at about 1:30 Wednesday afternoon. Moments later she saw debris on the road and a truck under the bridge.

"It was still flying and I saw something like a truck go on so I just turned around," said Kemp.

Police say 60-year-old Melvin Arras of Fulton was driving a Ryder rental truck on the parkway and struck the railroad bridge. The Ryder truck was 13 feet tall - the bridge is 10' 9". The truck's roof was sheared off and debris blocked the westbound lane for more than an hour.

Signs and flashing lights warn drivers of the low bridge but many people say more needs to be done.

"Flashing lights can only do so much," said Joshua Harrison. "I mean you can't see them during the day and who pays attention to signs? There's a sign every twenty feet."

The parkway bridge has been involved in numerous accidents in recent years. Last year, four people were killed and twenty injured when a Megabus hit the bridge. Earlier this week driver John Tomaszewski was charged with four counts of criminally negligent homicide.

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney and law enforcement officials have asked the state to make the area around the bridge safer. The New York State D.O.T. is nearing completion on a detailed engineering study of the parkway. A spokesperson for the D.O.T. said that crews have already removed brush and improved visibility for drivers. It was also revealed exclusively to CNYcentral on Wednesday that an electronic low bridge warning system is scheduled to be installed this summer.

"So if they are over height they will get a warning either flashing lights or an audible sound. We are in the process of determining exactly which system we are going to be installing there but we are going to be making this significant adjustment," said Jennifer Post from the D.O.T.

Dawn Kemp said she hopes the new warning system will prevent accidents like the one she narrowly avoided and save lives.

"It would wake them up to realize - oh my gosh I can't go through there and they would have to stop," said Kemp.

In addition to the electronic warning system, the D.O.T. will add warning signs on the road itself.

Original story from Wednbesday afternoon:

The Onondaga Lake Parkway (State Route 370) has reopened after a truck hit the railroad bridge overpass Wednesday afternoon.

According to the State Department of Transportation, the crash took place around 1:15 p.m. Eyewitness reports say a commercial truck hit the bridge in the north/west lane, spilling debris onto the roadway. The truck's roof was left behind as the truck drove past the bridge.

We TMre told the truck continued down the road before stopping at the Liverpool Animal Hospital, near the Onondaga Lake Park.

Drivers were diverted to Old Liverpool Road to get to and from the village while the Parkway was cleaned up.

This isn't the first time in recent history that a large commercial vehicle has struck the bridge. Just this past Monday a 60-year-old bus driver from New Jersey was arraigned on charges of criminally negligent homicide after the Megabus he was driving crashed into the bridge last September, killing four people and injuring dozens more.