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May 13, 2008

 

State moves to keep trucks off rural roads

Trucking industry says regulations to limit some traffic to interstates will increase costs

State

Bob Ellis/staff photographer   
Gov. David Patterson, left,  announces that he will require tractor-trailers hauling garbage from downstate to use Interstate 81 and the Thruway to make their way to the Seneca Meadows Landfill instead of using highways such as routes 79, 20, 41 and 41A. Standing with Patterson is U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer and Assemblyman Gary Finch. The governor made the announcement Monday outside the Sherwood Inn in Skaneateles.

By EVAN GEIBEL
Staff Reporter
egeibel@cortlandstandard.net

SKANEATELES — The state Department of Transportation will begin creating regulations to keep tractor-trailers hauling garbage off small roads in the Finger Lakes region and elsewhere in New York state, Gov. David Paterson announced at a press conference Monday morning.
A first draft of regulations should be ready for public review by the first week of June, Paterson said as he stood outside the Sherwood Inn in Skaneateles shortly before noon among a crowd of about 125 Central New York residents, news media and politicians.
He expects the regulations to take effect sometime this summer.
The new regulations would be aimed at keeping the trucks on the interstate highway system as much as possible and would not impact tractor-trailers making local deliveries or pickups.
In Cortland County, residents have voiced concern over the trucks that use small two-lane roads such as routes 41, 41A and 90.
“For far too long, people living throughout the Finger Lakes in Onondaga, Cayuga and Tompkins counties have been suffering, trying to get big rigs off the back roads winding through the region,” Paterson said.
Kendra Adams, acting president of the New York State Motor Truck Association, said that the reason the truckers take these routes is because they’re the most direct way to get from point A to point B.
“If you want to get the trucks off of the local roads, you have to offer them some incentive,” Adams said this morning.
More than 1.9 million trucks carry freight through Central New York each year, according to a news release from the governor’s office. Adams said that 92 percent of manufactured goods in the state are delivered by tractor-trailers.
Truckers and trucking companies pay a ton-mile tax, based on the weight of the cargo and the distance traveled.
This money — which amounts to $300 million per year, Adams said — is used to maintain and improve roads.
As one of the only states in the Northeast region that charges the tax, New York would be at a comparative disadvantage with other states in the region, Adams said.
Waste haulers would be in a tight spot because staying on the interstates would increase their toll and fuel costs, and Adams said they wouldn’t be able to immediately renegotiate the rates with the municipalities whose trash they haul.
She pointed out, though, that milk haulers, fuel haulers, food haulers and others would be impacted by the regulations.
“We’re already experiencing record high prices at the grocery stores and at the fuel pump, and this is just going to increase those costs,” Adams said, adding that truckers’ costs would trickle down to consumers. “The guy driving that truck is struggling just as hard as everyone else.”
Residents along some of these rural routes complain of noise, dust and odors posed by the trucks — especially the tractor-trailers carrying municipal garbage — as well as the safety issues posed by the large trucks moving down roads that were not designed to handle such loads. They move off the main highways to avoid tolls and to save on diesel fuel.
“They saved a few dollars and ruined life for hundreds of thousands of people,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) claimed Tuesday as he stood next to Paterson.
Schumer has pushed for legislation in Congress that would require every state to designate a truck routing agency and has lobbied for a solution to the truck problem in New York.
“I lobbied George Pataki — no luck. I lobbied Eliot Spitzer — no luck. Governor Paterson has jumped right on this,” Schumer said.
State DOT spokesman Skip Carrier said Monday afternoon that the agency would comply with the governor’s directive and respond as quickly as possible. One of the first steps would be meeting with members of the public as well as trucking companies and the industries and businesses that rely on the haulers.
The DOT would be assessing factors such as the size of trucks, road conditions and the structure of adjacent communities in the effort to designate the trucking routes.
A public meeting would likely be held at some point, Carrier said.
While the DOT would establish the regulations, it would be up to police agencies to enforce the new laws.
Should haulers fail to comply with the regulations, Schumer said, “anyone who avoided it would pay such a fine that they would wish they had paid the tolls they were trying to avoid.”
Legislation on the matter, sponsored by state Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse), has already passed the state Senate and is before the Assembly.
The DeFrancisco bill is intended to give the state Department of Transportation the power to establish trucking routes.
The bill would have also designated municipal waste — much of the truck traffic is carrying such waste from downstate, New Jersey and Pennsylvania to upstate landfills, such as Seneca Meadows — as hazardous waste, but only for the purpose of allowing the state to single out this kind of truck traffic as potentially dangerous.
Local Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D-Ithaca), who did not attend Monday’s announcement, had opposed the DeFrancisco bill and did not believe that the governor would be willing or able to enforce the measure.
At a meeting in Ithaca on April 17, Lifton was berated by some of those in the audience for not supporting the DeFrancisco bill.
“I have long been committed to coming up with a realistic long-term solution to this problem, and I will remain involved in this process until we address all outstanding issues and achieve that goal,” Lifton said in a prepared statement read by a legislative aide at Monday’s press conference.

 

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