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DOT sensors on I-81 to help prevent truck-bridge crashes

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ADAMS CENTER — Officials of the state Department of Transportation are expanding the use of infrared sensors that would help vehicles avoid bridge collisions on Interstate 81 at the South Harbor Road overpass.

Crews are working to link height detection sensors to a permanent message board near the bridge, which has an underpass clearance of 14 feet, 3 inches.

“If you trip it, you're not going to get a subtle warning,” department spokesman Michael R. Flick said. “You're going to get a big flashing light.”

He added the process of improving the sensors had been in the works “for a while.” He estimated the cost for materials to implement the changes was about $12,500.

Currently, a tractor-trailer heading south that is too tall would activate a sign beacon north of the bridge. To avoid the hazard, trucks can detour to the bridge and return to the road without changing direction.

Mr. Flick said similar sensors also were being installed south of the bridge in its northbound lanes.

The bridge was last hit in October by a crane bucket fastened to a flatbed tractor-trailer, causing traffic to be detoured. A previous such accident, in March 2011, led to several months of repairs and partial road closures.

Mr. Flick said the South Harbor Road Bridge is scheduled for rehabilitation that would increase its height in 2014.

When finished, the bridge's underpass will measure at 16 feet, the department's new standard to account for larger vehicles on the road. The rehabilitation would be similar to work done at bridges at Michaels Road and Massey Street.

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