Winter 2001, p.12

City's Lack of Comprehensive Truck Plan Pits Neighborhoods vs. Trucks

An illegal truck blocks the crosswalk on Broome Street.New York City is one of the most truck-dependent cities in the U.S. Trucks move two- thirds of the freight going to and from NYC, including 82% of all goods crossing the Hudson River. About 14 million trucks use NYC bridge and tunnel crossings each year. The phased-in closure of the Fresh Kills landfill will add additional garbage-hauling truck trips each day on city streets. It is obvious that NYC urgently needs a comprehensive traffic policy for trucks.

In 1999, the Department of Transportation awarded a $600,000 contract to Parsons Brinkerhoff to study and revise the city's truck routes. The unstated mandate of the contract was to make trucking easier, no matter the cost to neighborhoods. Not surprisingly, the study came under intense fire from environmental and community groups and elected officials for not addressing pedestrian safety, noise, and physical damage factors in selecting - or deselecting - truck routes. In the spring of 2000, after an intense organizing effort led by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and the NYC Environmental Justice Alliance, then DOT Commissioner Wilbur Chapman declared the truck route study 'dead' in its current form. The DOT recently announced that the new Request for Proposals for the Truck Route Study will be completed at the end of January. Changes in the study have not been made public. In the interim, DOT has engaged a piecemeal approach to planning for trucks. Truck capacity increases around the city are planned without regard to their overall impact.

Examples:

DOT has plans for increased capacity for trucks on Columbia Street in Brooklyn, as well as West Houston Street in Manhattan. The Columbia Street plan calls for substantial widening of Columbia, DeGraw, and Van Brunt Streets in Red Hook, including the addition of nearly 40 feet of lanes for a truck diverter. The plan would narrow sidewalks and increase traffic and speeds on the street. A byproduct of the truck route would be the elimination of a long-planned multi-use greenway connecting Red Hook and the Brooklyn Bridge Park. The community reacted with anger to the proposed widening, and over 100 people turned out to a Community Board 6 meeting in mid-December.

On West Houston Street, despite universal community and business opposition, the DOT has continued its efforts to make the street into an on-ramp to the Holland Tunnel. DOT had proposed narrowing sidewalks, cutting down trees, and eliminating parking. At a late fall meeting with local groups, the Department seemed to have gotten the message that this was unacceptable. The compromise is widening sidewalks and eliminating parking on one side, thereby creating a widened lane for trucks.

All of New York City is suffering from this cat-and-mouse game between trucks and people. People and the environment need to be placed above the movement of dangerous trucks. The City must snap out of its' truck's first stupor and plot a rational course for moving trucks in and out of New York. Local communities and environmental groups must be aware and continue to fight for rational NYC truck routes until the City stops their irrational truck route planning.

For maps of the current truck routes go to http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/motorist/trucks.shtml.


There are a number of ways to reduce the number of trucks in NYC. Foremost among these is the reversal of the one-way toll on the Verrazano Bridge to a two-way toll. This would stem the tide of trucks that cut through Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan towards New Jersey avoiding the one-way toll. This will take an act of Congress, and so far, New York's Senators haven't shown the needed leadership or vision. Other means of reducing trucks on NYC streets include:

  • A cross-harbor rail link.
  • Expanded rail-freight facilities in NYC and Long Island.
  • Parking policies guaranteeing trucks scarce curb space for deliveries.
  • Vigorous enforcement of the city's truck route and size/weight rules.
  • Traffic calming measures that complement truck route enforcement.
  • T.A. continues to vigorously support and push for all of these measures.

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