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For Immediate Release
December 14, 2010

Winter Driving Means Extra Caution Says Bridge Authority

Highland, NY – While this morning’s dusting of snow didn’t cause any major issues on the Hudson Valley’s bridges, the state Bridge Authority is reminding travelers about special conditions on bridges over the Hudson River.

Bridge crews on all five mid-Hudson region bridges are on stand-by if bad weather hits said Authority Executive Director Joseph Ruggiero.   Ruggiero said crews use a combination of sand, salt and special environmentally friendly de-icing chemicals to keep the bridges as safe as possible.

Ruggiero reminded drivers that no matter how prepared maintenance workers are or how well the roads are maintained, 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,” Ruggiero said.

Winter-weather driving tips particularly important on bridges include:

  • 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.
  • Bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads freeze first.  Even at temperatures a little above freezing, 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'll probably find the road in front of them worse than the road behind.

There are additional safety tips around toll plazas.

  • When approaching the toll booth, slow down slowly and leave extra space between vehicles.  When leaving the toll plaza, speed up at a steady pace so you don’t spin your wheels.  Hitting the gas or the brake hard can result in a loss of traction and a spin-out. 
  • Four-wheel drive SUVs and larger vehicles might help you get better traction in snow, 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. 

It’s true! “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,” Ruggiero 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).