When a tractor-trailer carrying 30,000 pounds of flour crashed into an overpass on the Merritt Parkway in Westport last week, it raised the question: How often do tractor-trailers enter the Merritt?
"It's relatively rare. That's the phrase I would use," said Department of Transportation Spokesman Kevin Nursick. "To quantify that, there have been bridge impacts 20 times between 2006 and 2009."
While 20 over three years doesn't sound like a lot, that's not necessarily the number of trucks that mistakenly enter the parkway.
Master Sgt. Kevin Mingo with State Police Troop G in Bridgeport, which covers most of Fairfield County, said troopers see tractor-trailers on the Merritt often.
"It happens constantly. When [officers] see it, they take enforceable action," Mingo said. "Unfortunately, the number of troopers we have makes it difficult to target the problem the way it needs to be targeted."
For Michael Riley, president of Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, Inc., out-of-state drivers following inaccurate GPS directions are the problem.
"Many truckers have GPS that you would use in a car and, as a result, are oblivious to the fact they are heading toward a no-truck zone," Riley said. "There are signs posted warning truckers, but now they're sitting with contrary information between the signs and the GPS."
Nursick doesn't buy this, arguing that the fault ultimately lies with the drivers.
"All entrance ramps are clearly marked. You have to be quite unobservant to not notice the restrictions for the Merritt Parkway," he said. "There is the potential GPS are playing a role here, but that's still no excuse. The signs are still there and are very clear. GPS does not overrule signage."
For Riley, one solution would be to spread the word that regular GPS units are not appropriate for truckers.
For Nursick, that's not the solution. "Everyone, not just truckers, just needs to pay attention to road signs," he said.
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