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Weather Sensors Keep B&T Customers Safe

Ever wonder how officials determine when weather-related advisories are necessary to notify motorists? In the old days, it involved sending an employee out onto the deck of a bridge in the middle of a storm with a rudimentary hand-held device. But thanks to modern technology, above-ground atmospheric sensors are now used to measure wind velocity, direction, humidity and precipitation -- all via wireless communication.

Small rocket-like weather sensors attached to light poles are used at all seven MTA-operated bridges. The data that is collected is used to warn motorists when to slow down in the event of high winds. Working with embedded roadway sensors, this technology also lets officials know how wet roadways are due to rain or snow.

Phase I speed restrictions are enacted when winds reach between 40 mph to 49 mph in dry conditions, or 30 mph to 49 mph when roadways are wet or icy. Phase II conditions occur when winds reach 50 mph or more in wet or dry conditions. Under these circumstances certain types of vehicles -- tractor trailers, cars pulling trailers, motorcycles, step vans, motor homes, and mini buses -- are barred from crossing the bridge until the winds subside.

"These procedures are designed and implemented to insure the safety of our customers," said Acting Vice President of Operations James Fortunato.

Phase II conditions are relatively rare. So far in 2010, various bridges have initiated Phase I wind restrictions six times. Phase II conditions were initiated once, in January.