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December 16, 2008

Yes – the Bridge Really Does Freeze Before the Roadway!
Winter Travel Safety on Bridges Urged

Highland, NY – Last week’s storm was an unpleasant reminder that winter driving can be treacherous.

 With snow and sleet predicted for this evening, the state Bridge Authority advised travelers about special conditions on bridges over the Hudson River.

“Unfortunately, last week’s ice storm won’t be the only bad weather we face in the coming months”, Authority spokesman John Bellucci said.  “it reminds us that extra caution is a smart move for safe winter travel.”

Bellucci said bridge crews on all five mid-Hudson bridges are on stand-by if bad weather approached.  Crews use a combination of sand, salt and special environmentally friendly de-icing chemicals to keep the bridges as safe as possible.

 “No matter how prepared or how much sand and salt are on the road, if a winter storm hits, the safest move is to stay home.  If you can’t do that, then we recommend a couple of common-sense precautions,” Bellucci said.

*Decrease your speed and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.

*Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists and keep your lights and windshield clean.

*Don't use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.

*Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, which will freeze first. Even at temperatures above freezing, if the conditions are wet, you might encounter ice in shady areas or on exposed roadways like bridges.

*Stay well behind and don't pass snow plows and sanding trucks. The drivers have limited visibility, and you're likely to find the road in front of them worse than the road behind.

“Just about every year, we get a complaint or two about a chunk of sand from a sanding truck hitting a windshield.  If a chunk of sand freezes, it bounces.  Staying 300 feet – the length of a football field - behind a sanding truck will avoid this potential problem,” Bellucci said.

“And remember,” Bellucci added, “four-wheel drive SUVs and larger vehicles might help you get better traction, but they don’t stop any faster.”  In fact, heavier vehicles, such as full-sized SUVs can take longer to stop because of increased weight, he added.

Why “Bridge Freezes before Roadway”

We’ve all seen the signs, but why are bridges different?  It’s a question the Bridge Authority gets every winter.

“Roads absorb residual heat from the ground.  Since bridges are surrounded by air, and the air is colder than the ground, bridges freeze before roadways,” Bellucci said.  He added that this is true not just for the Hudson River bridges, but every bridge or large culvert, whether over water or land.

Quick Facts about the New York State Bridge Authority

  • The NYS Bridge Authority operates the Bear Mountain, Newburgh-Beacon, Mid-Hudson, Kingston-Rhinecliff and Rip Van Winkle bridges. 
  • The Authority is funded from bridge tolls and receives no tax monies for bridge maintenance and operation.
  • The $1 passenger vehicle toll for east-bound passage on all Authority bridges is among the lowest nationwide for self-supporting transportation agencies (there is no toll for west-bound passage).
  • Accidents on Authority bridges in 2007 were among the lowest in recent history, resulting in one accident for every 385,000 crossings.