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Wind Sensors Help Keep Motorists Safe

Ever wonder how officials determine when weather-related motorist advisories should go into place?  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.

Wind Sensors Help Keep Motorists SafeSmall 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 gauge the condition of roadways 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 winds subside.

The system has been in place since the early 1990s but the latest upgrade, completed in 2008, includes cutting-edge technology which results in information virtually being received in real time, said Chief Maintenance Officer Patrick Parisi.

The information is sent to facility managers to be used as a guideline to determine whether restrictions are necessary. It is also used to dispatch maintenance crews to stand by in the event that emergencies develop as a result of extreme weather conditions.

Though traffic delays may occur when restrictions are put in place, "these procedures are designed and implemented to insure the safety of our customers," said Chief of Special Operations James Fortunato.