NEW HAVEN — U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said he was stopped on the highway behind a truck that had gotten stuck underneath a bridge when inspiration struck.
“I put everything together and said this is absolutely intolerable and unacceptable,” he said.
In a letter sent Monday with Senate colleagues Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Ed Markey, D-Mass., Blumenthal wrote three companies that develop GPS apps for smartphones, urging them to make information about road restrictions on height, weight and hazardous materials available to users.
“I have a personal interest in this topic,” Blumenthal told the media at an event in front of Heroes Tunnel on Route 15 Monday.
He said he has spent much of his life on Route 15 through travel, and he is often stuck in traffic because a truck that should be restricted from traveling on the road gets stuck under an overpass. The situation is a “nightmare” he said, for state troopers who have to respond and for the Department of Transportation, which must assess and repair any damage to the bridges.
The problem has worsened, he said, because truck drivers and passenger vehicle operators alike rely increasingly more on smartphone-led GPS. The apps, which advise users on shortcuts and alternate routes to their destination when traffic is backed up, do not take into account whether a driver is operating a truck if it recommends a limited-access parkway such as the Merritt Parkway.
“Trucks get stuck on the Merritt Parkway because they are avoiding traffic and have been directed to this road by GPS,” he said. “The Merritt becomes a road to nowhere when you’re stuck.”
Requests for comment from Waze, Apple Maps and Google Maps were not immediately returned.
Although the letter is merely a demand to these companies, Blumenthal said he may consider legislative action if the companies do not respond.
Truck drivers also have told police that because of following these navigation apps they have hit bridges, resulting in the traffic delays.
Wes Haynes, executive director of the Merritt Parkway Conservancy, said drivers are increasingly tuned into GPS apps for navigation, instead of relying on signs that would tell them a road is restricted.
Haynes said he had attempted to contact the three companies included in Blumenthal’s letter one year ago, but it did not lead to any action.
“This issue has been on my mind for years,” Blumenthal said.
He said for the “virtual non-cost, or minimal cost” of adding that information to GPS apps, there’s no reason a company shouldn’t do so.
Meanwhile, when asked about the traffic on highways that leads GPS apps to redirect drivers to limited-access on parkways, Blumenthal did not have a plan to reduce the number of cars on roads, but he did mention his support for increased investment in railways.Read Full Article
The parkway is not the only place trucks have become stuck. A portion of James Street was closed in New Haven in October when a truck became stuck under a bridge next to 470 James St.
Along with the parkway, low-lying Metro-North rail bridges have been struck many times.
The rail bridge that runs over Campbell Avenue in West Haven has been hit multiple times over the years.
The King Street bridge on the Merritt Parkway in Greenwich has been struck nearly 150 times over the decade.
About a dozen times a year, a truck strikes a bridge along one of the state’s parkways because it exceeds the clearance height, said Kevin Nursick, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.
A driver died as recently as November 2017, when a truck stopped short of a bridge overpass in Greenwich, causing the Stamford man to crash into it.
Vehicles taller than eight feet, longer than 24 feet or wider that 71/2 feet are not allowed on the parkway.
Another proposed measure from state lawmakers included increasing fines for drivers of trucks and buses who drive onto the parkway from $92 to $500. A bill last year to raise that penalty to $500 never made it to a vote in the legislature.