November 29, 2008
Convoy protests truck proposal
Rumbles down CNY roads in opposition to village ban plan
SKANEATELES — The deep horns blared from the west at about 12:45 p.m. Friday, causing people gathered along Genesee Street in downtown Skaneateles to yell triumphantly.
Every street corner was filled with people who had waited for this moment, some for two hours, some with signs in hand that supported the approaching truck convoy and some that did not.
Roughly 200 trucks and cars driven by members of Truckers and Citizens United drove from Thruway Exit 41 near Waterloo to Auburn and Skaneateles, then on to Route 81, protesting efforts by the state to limit truck traffic on side roads through the Finger Lakes.
Village officials along roads such as routes 41 and 41A have for several years said that large trucks damage the streets, clog traffic routes and sometimes crash and overturn, causing hours of cleanup.
Trucks hauling garbage from New York City and New Jersey to the Seneca Meadows Landfill in Seneca County have especially angered citizens.
Skaneateles has been at the forefront of the movement to limit truck traffic, with Mayor Robert Green telling news media that the trucks disrupt his town with their stink and sound.
That is why Truckers and Citizens United made it a point Friday to attract attention to the picturesque Finger Lakes village.
Municipalities such as Skaneateles, Aurora and Homer have asked Gov. David Paterson to confine large trucks to the Thruway. Paterson asked the state Department of Transportation to create regulations last summer that would keep trucks with cargo units longer than 45 feet off the local highways.
Truckers have countered that they save gas and toll money by using side roads and have the right to make a profit. The federal government recently agreed, saying the DOT’s original proposed regulations violated interstate commerce laws.
The latest regulations say truckers can use state routes only if doing so reduces their trips by at least 25 miles one way or if weather conditions or other emergency conditions make other highways impassable.
Truckers are still unhappy.
“It’s About Our American Freedom,” read a banner on a Marcellus Sand and Gravel truck.
Friday marked the first day of the village’s annual Dickens Christmas, where characters from Charles Dickens novels roam the streets every weekend until Christmas. It was also Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year.
Hundreds of bystanders waited for the convoy, some neatly attired, with more expensive clothes and hairstyles, others looking more blue-collar in jeans and Carhart coats.
J.D. and Darlene Lawson, who live on Route 41, said they were tired of seeing garbage trucks go too fast through their neighborhood and sometimes crash, spilling their cargo along the road. They carried signs on one corner that read, “NYC Trucks (Trash) OFF 41-41A.”
Across the street, Marcellus residents Andrew Leubner and Matt Ryan held up signs that said they loved truckers.
“I know somebody who drives a truck and comes through this town, and he has the right to make a living,” Leubner said.
“They shouldn’t stop people just because it hurts the image of their precious town,” Ryan said. “Truck drivers know what they’re doing, they drive for a living, so I doubt they cause crashes or drive too fast.”
One leader of the truckers’ convoy was Joe Brillo, whose septic and excavation company owns several large trucks. Local resident Mike McPeck said Brillo’s drivers have repeatedly been stopped by a village police unit created to inspect any truck.
“It started with the garbage trucks to Seneca County but the village went overboard,” said McPeck. “Sometimes the police stop a truck for an hour. Now local trucking outfits won’t even deliver to village businesses. You get pulled over, you might end up with a $300 ticket.”
The village Chamber of Commerce had worried that the convoy would scare away shoppers and ruin business, but sales were brisk.
“Business has been very good,” said Denise Gambell, owner of Skaneateles Antique Center. “Personally, we need truckers. Their industry is part of commerce. They have the right to use state routes, same as anybody.”
Linda McCarthy, co-owner of a photography gallery on Jordan Street, said her business was doing fine.
“They all are,” she said.
Village police and state troopers kept Genesee Street fairly open as the convoy swept through, directing truckers to drive through red lights at times, stopping them so pedestrians could cross Genesee Street at other times. The convoy took about 30 minutes to pass.
Charles Major, town justice and former town supervisor, said routes 41 and 41A are the main focus of the battle between truckers and residents because truckers use them more than Route 20, which has steep hills in Cardiff and other points between LaFayette (the Route 81 exit) and Skaneateles.
The trucks in the convoy came from businesses in Rochester, Syracuse, Weedsport, Clifton Springs, Jordan and Skaneateles. Their horns blasted as they drove through. Ryan and Leubner joined dozens of people cheering and pumping their fists in the air.
“Isn’t this funny?” said one woman to her husband. “This is more people than we get for the Labor Day parade.”
To read this article and more, pick up today's Cortland Standard
Click here to subscribe