After repeated bridge strikes, I-87 NB closure planned for the weekend

Trucking news and briefs for Monday, Jan. 1, 2024:

I-87 closing in New York on Jan. 6

The New York State Thruway Authority has announced that the northbound lanes of the Thruway (I-87) from exit 17 in Newburgh to exit 18 in New Paltz will fully shut down to all traffic at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 6, for at least 12 hours so a portion of the damaged Brookside Road overpass in New Paltz can be safely removed over the northbound lanes, weather permitting.

I-87 closure/detour planThe Plattekill Service Area will also be closed during this operation.

Closed to traffic since May, the Brookside Road overpass was hit by over-height vehicles nine times in 2023 and 27 times since 2019. These repeated collisions have resulted in considerable damage to the steel that supports the overpass and decreased the amount of weight it can safely carry, the authority reported. Following regular monitoring and multiple inspections, the Thruway and consulting engineers have determined the overpass should be removed in the interest of public safety.

Built in 1954, the four-span continuous four-girder bridge carries Brookside Road (milepost 74.17) over the Thruway -- one lane of traffic in each direction -- in the town of New Paltz in Ulster County. It had a vertical clearance is 14.2 feet, which has been reduced to 14 feet due to the multiple bridge strikes in both directions, including one on Oct. 30 when its girders above the northbound lanes was struck by a truck hauling a forklift.

Here’s what motorists and residents should expect on the evening of Saturday, Jan. 6, according to the Thruway:

  • At 5 p.m., the Plattekill Service Area along the northbound Thruway in Ulster County -- located between exits 17 and 18 -- will close, and all customers will be required to leave the facility to ensure the roadway is clear of motorists. No food, restrooms or fuel services will be available. Commercial vehicles may be required to leave the service area even earlier to avoid delays in departure.
  • At 7 p.m., all traffic on the northbound Thruway will be required to leave the highway at exit 17 in Newburgh.
  • Saturday night into Sunday morning -- Crews will work to remove the overpass over the highway.
  • On Sunday morning, the detour at northbound exit 17 will be lifted and two travel lanes will be available except in the construction zone where there will only be one travel lane available. The Plattekill service area will reopen at this time.
  • On Sunday, work will continue to remove the overpass, away from the travel lane.
  • The second travel lane through the construction zone will open as soon as safely possible.

During this work, both travel lanes in the southbound direction between exits 18 and 17 will remain open. However, the two southbound lanes are scheduled to close the following weekend (January 13-14) to remove the remainder of the overpass, weather permitting.

Governor Kathy Hochul has previously noted that each year, an increased number of commercial truck operators, as well as those driving rental box trucks and moving trucks, fail to recognize their vehicle’s height and collide with bridges and overpasses, creating public safety hazards, traffic delays and damage to bridges across the state.

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From 2021 through 2022, there were a combined 808 reported bridge strikes across New York. In 2023, there were 101 reported bridge strikes on the New York State Thruway’s 570-mile superhighway, compared to a total of 63 reported bridge strikes in all of 2022, a 60% increase from the prior year.

Spot rates' pre-Christmas bump anemic heading into this new year 

It's typical to see spot-market volumes and rates (particularly for dry vans and reefers) gain strength leading into the Christmas-New Year week. This year, according to last week's analysis by FTR Transportation Intelligence and the Truckstop load board, the gains came for rates, though they were far smaller than in past years.

Spot load availability for the week that ended December 22 was actually down week-over-week, FTR reported in its last weekly update.

Total load activity fell 12.2%, as an increase in refrigerated loads moderated declines for other equipment types. Total volume was down about 21% compared to the same 2022 week and about 23% compared to the five-year average. Full-year spot load availability is shown in bars on the chart. (FTR noted that the last week ending just two days prior to Christmas eve likely contributed to relatively small rate increases and weaker volume gains.) Catch the FTR/Truckstop full report for the week via this link.Total load activity fell 12.2%, as an increase in refrigerated loads moderated declines for other equipment types. Total volume was down about 21% compared to the same 2022 week and about 23% compared to the five-year average. Full-year spot load availability is shown in bars on the chart. (FTR noted that the last week ending just two days prior to Christmas eve likely contributed to relatively small rate increases and weaker volume gains.) Catch the FTR/Truckstop full report for the week via this link.

Freight rate gains were strongest for reefers, with van average rates adding just 8 cents/mile to just north of $2/mile. 

National average reefer rates, meanwhile, jumped 14.6 cents for the largest increase since the week of the International Roadcheck inspection event in May. However, the increase was much smaller than those seen during the same week in recent years -- from 2020 to 2022, refrigerated rates rose by at least 35 cents during week 51 of the year. Those years also saw sharper drops in truck postings. Rates were about 18% below the same 2022 week and about 15% below the five-year average. Refrigerated loads increased 9.1%. Volume was nearly 36% below the same week last year and almost 34% below the five-year average for the week.National average reefer rates, meanwhile, jumped 14.6 cents for the largest increase since the week of the International Roadcheck inspection event in May. However, the increase was much smaller than those seen during the same week in recent years -- from 2020 to 2022, refrigerated rates rose by at least 35 cents during week 51 of the year. Those years also saw sharper drops in truck postings. Rates were about 18% below the same 2022 week and about 15% below the five-year average. Refrigerated loads increased 9.1%. Volume was nearly 36% below the same week last year and almost 34% below the five-year average for the week.Find a full national rates picture for the entirety of 2023, and more data, via the FTR/Truckstop weekly report at this link. 

[Related: POLL: Owner-ops, what's your business' outlook for 2024?]

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