Let’s talk about transportation: the Merritt Parkway is not for trucks
A loyal reader of this column sent me some disturbing images last week.
Joe C was driving on Merritt Parkway in Norwalk when he saw a FedEx tractor-trailer heading south. His passenger took these photos:
This is so wrong…a serious accident waiting to happen. Trucks are, with a few exceptions, prohibited on the parkway… and for good reason.
All Merritt Drive bridges, originally built to a minimum standard of eleven feet at the abutments, are too low for large trucks. In some places, the bridges are even lower due to the regrading and elevation of the platform. The road simply wasn’t designed for anything other than passenger cars.
Trucks aren’t the only vehicles banned from parkways. The same goes for recreational vehicles, cars towing trailers, buses and all utility vehicles. This includes any vehicle with advertising or logos on it, even passenger cars with “Combi” (passenger and commercial combination) plates.
But we know those trucks are there. We see them all the time. So why don’t they have a ticket?
CT State Police tell me it’s a matter of priorities. They only have two soldiers patrolling the Merritt Parkway per shift and their hands are full of speed, traffic accidents, drug deals, etc.
The problem is, it’s only a $92 ticket for violating the prohibited vehicle warning signs at each entrance. It’s not very dissuasive. A bill to increase this penalty to $500 was never passed in the Legislative Assembly.
The old “Forbidden” signs at the ramps were barely noticeable and were wordy and confusing. So CDOT just changed all the signs to something simpler, more colorful and eye-catching. Apparently they don’t help.
Even when more sophisticated warning systems using lasers, horns and flashing lights are in place, bridges are still being hit.
Many truckers blame their GPS for directing them to parkways, so some insurance companies are offering financial incentives to fleet owners who use a “smart GPS” designed for commercial drivers that will warn drivers of too-high vehicles. to stay away. But if you’re using a regular GPS device or an app like WAZE, you’re out of luck.
When a truck hits a bridge, there are consequences. In addition to often ripping the roof off the vehicle, soldiers also call in their truck crew who can issue thousands of dollars in fines if they find other violations regarding vehicle weight, driver’s log, etc
Usually, when an overhead truck hits one of Merritt’s 40 concrete underpasses, the truck loses. But any damage to these historic bridges, many of which have recently been restored, can take months to repair. Not to mention the incredible backups and lags of those crashes.
When the Merritt Parkway opened in 1940, the speed limit was 40 mph and it was designed to carry 18,000 vehicles per day. These days, outside of peak bumper-to-bumper times, the average speed is 73 mph and the promenade handles 90,000 vehicles a day. That’s more than enough without adding dangerous trucks to the mix.